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464 Splendour of the Seas Cruise Reviews

We sailed on Splendour of the Seas, sailing date 12/22/03-01/03/04, Port Galveston, Texas. This was our seventh cruise and the third with RCL. It was to be a happy holiday time together. Unfortunately, RCL did not perform at a level we ... Read More
We sailed on Splendour of the Seas, sailing date 12/22/03-01/03/04, Port Galveston, Texas. This was our seventh cruise and the third with RCL. It was to be a happy holiday time together. Unfortunately, RCL did not perform at a level we have come to expect from their cruise line. The Splendour of the Seas was placed in service in 1996. It is not up to the standard for modern enjoyable cruising I have experienced on RCL other ships. The power plant renders a nauseating rumbling that is felt most prominently in the King & I Dining Room. This is felt no matter what the sea conditions are. The stabilizer system has had problems in the past. RCL changed the itinerary of this cruise at a late date omitting Jamaica and adding half day visits to parts of Central America. These half-day afternoon visits were worthless as arrivals were late and shore time minimal. Departure to Belize was scheduled for 7:00 AM. Tender transports were delayed until 10:00 AM to those without excursions booked through RCCL. The wait for a tender exceeded one hour. Grand Cayman arrival was scheduled for 1:00 PM and arrival and tenders did not start till after 3:30 PM. We missed our own booked shore excursion entirely. Our entire family was looking forward to swimming with the stingrays. Not to be. Another disappointment without an explanation or apology being offered. No one seemed to be in charge or wanted to take responsibility. The cruise director never seemed to know what was going on or to help us deal with these constant problems. The Panama Canal Two Ocean Railroad was horrible. A brief pre-train bus trip was turned into a nightmare because the tour operator scheduled another ship's group in front of us. We stood in the open tropical sun for 45 minutes without explanation, as we were made to wait for buses. We spent two hours on what should have been a 10-minute bus ride. We drove at 5 miles per hour through the slums of Colon and other equally horrible sites without explanation. We arrived at the Train Station and waited another half hour till 1:30 PM for the returning train. There is only one train and tracks. The tour operator knew by booking the group ahead of us that our trip would be delayed by three hours. We were not given lunch. We were not told where to purchase lunch. We were given a box with sugar snacks and sold beverages. We left the boat at 10:00 AM and returned after 7 PM. Over 9 hours without a proper meal and dragged around the slums for a third of the time. There was a RCL representative on our train and he made no effort to explain the situation or offer us alternatives. Back on the ship I went to the pursers desk to complain. I was told to come back in a half hour when the shore desk opened. I waited for a half hour in line to fill out a complaint form. I gave my form to the lady at the desk who told me they knew all about it and did not need to fill out a form. This was the same lady who I originally talked to at the pursers desk Scheduling Panama on a Sunday is a mistake. The large duty free shops are closed. While we were on our ground tour the ship itself sat in the lake for hours and did not get into Colon till almost 5 PM, two hours late. Arriving late or not at all was the theme of this cruise. At Roatan, Honduras we were to arrive at 12:00 PM. We were able to get off the boat at 3 PM. We had 2 hours of daylight to see the island. Diving tours were obviously cancelled. In Costa Maya we got to the port area and the captain decided the seas were too rough and left. The seas were 6 feet and not that bad but the stabilizer situation must have weighed on the Captain's mind. The seas and winds picked up and made the sailing day miserable. Our dinner meal service was slow. Our waiter had to share his assistant waiter with another waiter. Could not tell you why. Food was consistently cool as in not hot. Between this and the constant shaking vibration we felt very sad and angry for the whole situation. We mentioned this to the staff who felt this was well known to RCL and nothing was being done about it. We went to the pursers desk to let them know how we felt. We were told there was nothing they could do and we would have to wait till we got home and then communicate with Miami. This only served to feed our resentment. The phones and Internet service were non-functional for the first nine days. RoyalCaribbean replied 6 weeks later and said the ships had ball bearing problems in the past and everything is fine now (for who?). They feel they have the right to change the itinerary with or without notification or compensation (so you don't always get what you pay for). Tour operators are independent contractors and they are solely responsible for the tours (guess RCCL is not making any $$$$ on those tours that seem twice as expensive as independently arranged stuff). They were sorry the food was cool and will try to do better (send everything back and you will find it does come back hot the 2nd time). They were sorry about the Internet but it was probably caused by bad weather (guess I got my tan at the salon). RCL can and should do better. Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
Cruise Review: Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas Western Caribbean 3/5/2005 - 3/12/2005 Party consisted of my wife and I with our 8 and 12 year old daughters, and two other couples, in 3 adjoining balcony rooms. All adults are ... Read More
Cruise Review: Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas Western Caribbean 3/5/2005 - 3/12/2005 Party consisted of my wife and I with our 8 and 12 year old daughters, and two other couples, in 3 adjoining balcony rooms. All adults are "barely past our forties". Previous cruises include NCI Norway, Carnival Imagination (both adults only) and last 2 years on Carnival Spirit, with daughters. Comparison comments will generally relate to last 2 trips on Carnival Spirit. This was our third cruise booked thru vacationstogo.com who we have had very good experience with. We flew from Rochester, NY to Tampa the day before, out of respect for winter weather in the Northeast. As one of our companions graciously provided overnight accommodations from her Marriott miles, we stayed at a Marriott Residence Inn. The Marriott properties close to the Cruise Port were booked so we ended up about 20-30 minutes from the port and airport. The Residence Inn was a great place to stay, we just hung around the pool, and that night ordered dinner delivered from Dine-One-One which offers selections from numerous area restaurants. The only downside was that taxi and limo/shuttle service in the Tampa area is relatively expensive and options are limited. Embarkation: We arrived at the Tampa cruise port about 1:15 and waited about 15 minutes for the rest of our party to arrive. Due to the height of the causeway bridge, the largest cruise ships cannot get in, and the port is smaller and way less hectic than Miami. The various employees we encountered seemed significantly more pleasant and helpful as well. We had completed our RCI pre-boarding forms online and boarding proceeded very quickly, probably 20 minutes or less. We went directly to our balcony room on deck 7 to dump our carry-ons, then went to the Windjammer for some lunch. It was OK, but here was not much that the kids liked. The last piece of luggage arrived shortly before dinner. Ship: The Splendour is obviously not brand new, but seemed well cared for. Less glitzy than Carnival , which is not a bad thing. I thought it had kind of an understated elegance. I liked the smaller size, as it didn't feel like a mile long hike to get from one end of the ship to the other. The pools, while not large, never seemed to get overly crowded, and I liked the "baby" section on the end of one as one could sit in it against the edge with a book when the sun got a bit overpowering. The solarium pool looked ok the couple of times I went in there, and very peaceful. It's nice they have a pool area that's adults only for those that can indulge. The solarium glass roof retracts, but was never open when I was there. The chaise lounges were definitely a step up from Carnival in quality. Clothes pins and those little black binder clips came in handy to keep towels in place. Other than the last day, it wasn't too hard to find at least a few chairs together to use. As usual, there were many chair hogs who would deposit something on the chair and disappear for hours. The ship policy said things would be removed after 2 hours but I never saw this actually happen. On the last day, there were articles left on some chairs next to us for at least 5 hours without anyone showing up. I was so, so sorely tempted to take all the stuff and just throw it overboard, but I managed to resist the urge. The kids missed the water slide from the Carnival Spirit. I did the rock wall climb twice. I was a little surprised as I had been expecting more of a beginner's or kid's wall, but it has varying of routes, maybe 5 different degrees of difficulty. I had never climbed before, and it took me 2 tries to get to the top on the easiest route. The secret seems to be don't look up or down, just focus on where your hands have to go next. The one female instructor/spotter (Sarah?) appeared to be the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and could have a future as a drill instructor, as she's very motivating! The wall was generally open 3-4 hours a day, and it takes time for even a small group to go through. Other than the last day however, there did not seem to be a lot of people waiting. I played the golf putting course a few times including with my 12 year old. The bumps made it challenging. Again did not observe any long lines of people waiting. Minor ship design notes: the raised doorsills had little diagonal risers to them so you were less likely to trip on them. It constantly bugged me on the Spirit that the handrails in the hallways had flat butt end caps on them, so if you weren't paying attention walking with your hand on the rail you'd frequently whack your fingers into the next rail (ok, more frequently in the wee morning hours). The Splendour, to contrast, had rounded wood caps on the end of each rail. I did find it strange on the Splendour, that there were no rest rooms adjacent to the dining room, the theater, or the casino. You had to go up or down one flight of stairs in each case. We never encountered a significant wait for elevators. The kids camp program seemed ok. Not as good as Carnival's in terms of the activities or counselors, but certainly acceptable. We were able to give permission for our 8 year old to sign herself in and out which was convenient. The unattended Library was open all hours, and was comfortably furnished. They only carried hardcovers, no paperbacks, so I didn't check out any books. I had bought a number of used paperbacks at home before we left and managed to get through 5 of them on the flight down and on the cruise. As anyone with kids can appreciate, reading 5 novels in a week is a rare pleasure. Since the books were all reasonably priced, I would just leave them out in the common areas when finished with a note that they were free to a good home. They all seemed to disappear pretty quickly. Room: Highlight for us was probably the balcony. We liked having the sliding glass door, as opposed to the spring-loaded French door on Carnival. The balcony chairs were a step up from Carnival. I missed having a light on the balcony as I would sometimes use it to read late at night without disturbing anyone in the room. The privacy on the balcony was also not what we were used to, as the gaps on the edges of the side dividers made it risky to venture forth in one's underwear (or maybe less). Our two daughters had to share a fold-down couch which was not very large nor comfortable. We definitely missed the third bed that pulled down from the ceiling that we had on Carnival. This may have been available in other rooms based on some conversations I overheard. The bathroom was average, with the exception of the shower, which was pretty cramped. I had a hard time shaving my face, couldn't imagine trying to do one's legs in there. I liked the design touch of a small trough around the outside of the shower which drained away any water that escaped the curtain. The water pressure was strong, to the point that the water could splash out of the sink onto one's clothing, which of course I discovered on the first formal night. We were able to find enough storage space for the four of us (four large suitcases, a suit carrier, and 4 carry-ons), but it was tight, as expected. I thought there could have been more space designed into the cabin, for example, there was wasted space below the shelf under the sink in the bathroom, and there was a coffee table that took up a fair amount of floor space and constantly had to be moved, that could have had some storage space incorporated underneath. The ice bucket that comes with the room is pretty small and as I drink a lot of ice water, I asked our room steward, Carolina if I could get another one. She brought another plastic one which was standard size, and did a great job of keeping both of them filled, and her overall service for the week was excellent. Food: Most days, we only had breakfast and dinner. Breakfast buffet in the Windjammer was just so-so. The scrambled eggs, which I thought was a meal impossible to ruin, were pretty bad, mealy and watery. Bacon was crispy, which is how I like it, sausages and omelets, etc just ok. The coffee stations seemed to run out fairly regularly, and the kids were disappointed there was no chocolate milk at any of the meals. My wife and older daughter usually ordered room service breakfast which they found quite good, and the service was invariably prompt. I felt bad that I didn't realize the first couple of times that there was no gratuity included for the person delivering. We did have the lunch buffet once and it was alright. They don't seem to keep the food real hot at the buffet stations. I did like that all the stations were serve yourself, as opposed to some of the cafeteria style serving lines on Carnival. The burger grill by the Solarium was again just OK. The pizza there was nothing to write home about. Coming from upstate New York, where it seems there's a pizza parlor for every 15 residents, I was disappointed that I never once saw pepperoni or sausage on the offerings. Also missed the 24 hour availability on Carnival. The "Ice Cream" stations were limited to frozen yogurt, unless you wanted to spring for $2.89 a serving for Ben and Jerry's. Again, was not offered 24 hours. Dinners were consistently excellent. We had been assigned a great table at the early seating, a table for eight just as you walked in on the lower level right next to the windows. The dEcor was classy, and the service outstanding. I have never been on a cruise where the headwaiter was as visible and involved as on the Splendour. He was constantly checking on how things were going, and if we needed anything extra would chase it down. The rest of our wait staff was great also. No one at our table ever had a complaint about a meal. I would usually combine two entrees for a Surf and Turf offering and they were all excellent. I liked that they would offer to put the second main entrEe on the same plate, with just one set of sides. I am always impressed on these cruises as to how good the vegetables and other side dishes are, especially considering the volumes they have to produce in a limited time frame. There were two formal nights, which is two too many in my mind, but I was in the minority in out party. There seemed to be ample opportunities for photos, without having to stand in lines too long. Entertainment: I did not attend any of the ship shows, (I'm just not really that into them), but the rest of our party saw most of them. Reports indicated they were fair to good. According to every single woman in our party, the cruise director, - Rico - was HOT, and by the way, very competent. We ended up sharing a cab with him (and his naturally HOT friend) on the way to the beach in Costa Maya and he came across as very friendly. He seemed to enjoy his job and did well at it. We liked the casino, with the exception of all the mirrored walls. I would guess it was an effort to make the casino seem larger, but I found it confusing as it always looked like there was another part to the room., It probably doesn't help that I have a terrible sense of direction. Almost all the tables seemed to be $5 minimum, which is unusual these days. There were a couple of Caribbean Stud and 3-card poker tables, but no Let It Ride. Dealers were generally friendly and helpful. A few liked to deal high speed, which I don't care for. There were no automatic shufflers (thank you) and the blackjack tables seemed to be using about 6-7 decks. There was one sit-down BJ table that used one deck, but the payout rules were a little different so I didn't try it. I ended up a few hundred dollars ahead which of course made me like the place a little more ;) My wife played the slots and thought the selection and payouts were limited There was a nice bar adjacent to the casino called Schooners, that had a Piano player/singer who did requests every night. I thought the volume was a little loud, but maybe I'm just getting old. I visited the disco a couple of time after the casino closed which was generally about 1:30. Very nice spot, with 360 degrees of windows at the top of the ship. I was pleased to discover that a variety of beer in glass bottles was available throughout the Splendour, including not only Corona, but Red Stripe, Amstel Light, and a few others as well. Didn't do much for my vow to try and watch calories however. . .. We purchased pop cards (soda cards to non upstate-NYers) for the kids - about $35 ea including tip. They probably saved a few dollars but not a huge amount. My daughters just don't seem to drink that much soda on cruises for some reason. Unlike Carnival, pop is not included free at Dinner, so the cards helped there. Excursions: Our general plan - or lack thereof - was to book excursions at each port as we arrived and pretty much play it by ear. The ship excursions always involve a premium price, and more importantly to me, usually involve large crowds and standing in line, two things I will go to almost any extent to avoid on vacation. As we're always happy snorkeling or beaching it we can always find somewhere to go. There's not a lot of risk involved as long as you plan plenty of contingency time to get back to the ship on time. I must say this trip reinforced my inclination to avoid tender ports whenever possible. Georgetown, Grand Cayman (9-5): The ship newsletter had indicated that until 10:30, passengers would need to get tickets ahead of time by the pursers desk, and recommended that you get there early for tickets . Turned out that 10:30 was just an "estimate" and it probably wasn't until after 11:30 that you could get on without a ticket. We did go back to the purser's area for tickets and were able to depart a little after 11:00 Based on the favorable reviews I had seen on Captain Marvin's snorkel and stingray trip we planned to try them first for a family trip. Their office turned out to be a 5-6 block walk from our dock and naturally we missed their last boat that could have gotten us back on time by about 15 minutes. We then walked back to the dock and hooked up with Capt Harvey's boat. There were only about ten people on booked on the trip. On the short bus ride to the boat, it was easy to observe that there was still extensive amounts of damage from the August hurricanes, and this was on the leeward side from where they struck! The boat was a bit older, and the overall approach was pretty casual. There was no discussion of where the life jackets were located, and they did not close the rail openings for the gangways after we left the dock, so we had to keep a close eye on our daughters. There was a self-serve cooler on the front deck with some soda, water, small cups and ice. Captain Harvey claims to be the first person to start feeding the stingrays on the sandbar years ago. Both he and his first mate, a woman who had just moved from Boston to Grand Cayman late last year, were very helpful and friendly. They ended up having to resolve a dispute with some of the passengers, as a few had to be back early, while a couple of others claimed they were promised a snorkel stop in addition to the Stingray City excursion when they booked. The captain managed to make arrangements with another boat at the stingray sandbar to take back the couple that had the early departure time, so everything worked out. I had observed before that even though these boats are in competition for passengers, they usually cooperate in these types of situations which is nice. The Stingray City area was pretty crowded when we arrived, so the boat had to anchor in water 7-10 feet deep, then we swam maybe 20 feet to the sandbar. The water was clear and warm with nice soft sand on the bottom. The stingrays ranged up to about 4 feet across and would generally congregate around whoever had food. My 8 year old was pretty scared of them, but stayed in the water most of the time. The 12 year old was a little nervous at first but ended up having a wonderful time. This is definitely a worthwhile experience. As we were able to transfer our early-departing fellow passengers to the other boat, we also made a short stop at a nearby reef for some snorkeling. It was pretty good, nothing outstanding, and the whole family was able to participate. Capt. Harvey set the sail for the return trip, and came up on the front deck with his guitar and sang and told stories about the islands most of the way back. It was a nice relaxing conclusion to the afternoon, and we got back in plenty of time for the tender back to the ship. The line at the dock was not too long. I noticed that on the Princess dock next to us they had waiters circulating with trays of cold drinks for the people waiting which is a nice touch (hint, hint to RC). The other 2 couples in our group had taken a taxi to seven mile beach and enjoyed a relaxing day there in front of one of the hotels. Costa Maya (10 - 6): The Splendour was the only ship in port this day, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves which was nice. The port area is new and clean, with numerous shops, a pool and manmade beach area. There was a shuttle service from the ship to the port, but most people were walking. We took a taxi van to the fishing village of Majuhual (also known as "downtown") for I think $4 per person. It was very hot, and the a/c in the taxi was pretty feeble. Thankfully it was a fairly short ride. I had heard you could walk it on a path from the port, but with the heat and various paraphernalia we were carrying, I don't think it would have been much fun. We also saw a number of people riding bikes on the road we took, and it looked like they were eating a lot of dust. Majuhual is basically a dirt/sand road, along the beach, with bar/restaurants and various vendors along each side. Very casual and laid back, although the vendors can be somewhat aggressive, but never threateningly so. Our friend tried to take a picture of the street, and a young man jumped into the picture and then proceeded to chase our friend down the street, claiming he was owed $10 for taking his picture! Our friend told the young man he owed us $10 for ruining his picture and just kept walking. We ended up at a restaurant right on the beach, just before Tapas. It's called El Faro, but I'm not sure the name is displayed anywhere. It has a thatched roof, with yellow umbrellas over the beach tables. The restrooms were clean (although there was no seat on the toilet in the ladies room). The service and food were good and the prices very reasonable. Six adults and two children spent the day there for about $60 with a fair number of drinks, and a little bit of food. One word of caution, when you're in the water watch where you put your feet -there are a number of spiny black sea urchins, including in the sea grass. The water is very shallow, and stays no more than chest deep out to a reef which is probably 150-200 yards from shore. The water past the reef was pretty rough the day we were there, so we did not try any snorkeling trips, even though they were available for $20-35. One of our party did try a 30 minute massage for $20 and thought it was well worth it. We walked up and down the road and bought a few souvenirs, but nothing substantial. Overall a very pleasant, relaxing day. We would definitely return here given the chance. Belize City (7 - 5): The tender situation again seemed to be not well communicated. My friend and I went down to the loading area some time after they were to have started open boarding and they were still just taking those that had booked ship excursions. We got lucky somehow, as we had taken the elevators that come out right at the boarding area, and one of the crewman let us on the second tender that came after we got there. It's a long, usually high speed tender trip to the dock. The cruise lines subcontract to a number of independents, so there is quite a varied flotilla between the ship and the cruise dock. The two of us had been considering the cave tubing, and we quickly found a representative from X-Stream tours who had been highly recommended on several cruise boards. The representative was friendly and knowledgeable. We would have had just enough time to make the cave tubing, but once he explained that between the 40 minute bus ride, the 20-30 minute walk thru the jungle, and the tubing itself we realized we were looking at a 5-6 hour commitment. It was a very hot day again, and visions of the broiling van ride on Costa Maya kept dancing thru my head. Neither my friend nor I had a strong preference either way, and we ended up deciding to just spend the day checking out the port for a little while, and then enjoying the ship minus the usual crowds. As there were only two sea days on the itinerary, this option had some attraction. We heard later that day that one of the cave tubing excursions - never heard which one - had 3 flat tires on the ride to the jungle walk, and after a combined 3 hours in delays, just bussed everyone back to town. So maybe our indecision was a sign from God. We heard mixed reviews from people that had taken the ship's cave tubing trip, some thought it was just OK, others loved it. I also heard from one woman later, that the snorkeling on the ships trip had been outstanding. The reefs off Belize are quite a ways from shore (hence the long tender rides). We spent a couple of hours exploring the port area, did a little bit of shopping, a little drinking, a little shopping, a little more drinking..... In other words, shopping guy style ;) The shops right in the port area were nice, clean and low key., I commented as we were first looking around that it was a welcome change from some of the high pressure vendors in Costa Maya. But once we left the cruise port area and went into town, omigod what a difference. The vendors and "tour guides" - some of whom appeared less than savory - were extremely aggressive. Prices were very flexible, but we didn't stay too long or venture too far. Particularly if you were by yourself, I'd recommend staying in the cruise port area, or taking a reputable excursion. The ship's premium might be worth it here. We had a nice time at two of the bars at the cruise port - The Wet Lizard (or Wet the Lizard I'm not quite sure), and the Iguana Bar. The local beer is good and cheap, and there were some appealing drink specials as well. (To the guy at the Iguana bar who bought a round of 3 beers, and then took the change from a $5 bill - there's a reason some people hate Americans). The rest of our party was leaving the ship on a tender just as the two of us were coming back. We all ended up meeting up midday back on the ship, and enjoyed hanging around the pool etc. with not too many people around. I took the opportunity to make my second assault on the rock wall without many spectators around to laugh at me! Cozumel (7 - 11): Our dock in Cozumel was not the one right in town, I don't recall the name of it (there was a "1/2 Senor Frog's" there), but it was maybe a 5-10 minute taxi ride into the main town area. Based on reviews that Dzul Ha was the best snorkeling spot and was accessible from shore, my wife and I decided to take our daughters there for the day. The cab ride was only a few dollars. It was nice little spot, there are a couple of small man-made beaches behind the breakwall with tables, stools and a few chaise lounges. Vests, fins, etc can be rented right there for reasonable prices.. As I was getting ready to go in, one of the waiters asked me not to put on suntan lotion as it is harmful to the reef/fish. First time I had heard of that, fortunately my back was already pretty tan by then as I had done few visits to a tanning salon in the month before we left. The (3-4) stairs into the water are along the wall, so you can it to help keep your balance. Bare feet are ok for getting in, I put my fins in after walking out to about waist deep. Fish are visible almost immediately, but the real reef is about 40 yards out. I'm not a strong swimmer and made it 3-4 times without a problem, including with my 8 and 12 yr old daughters. The reef is extensive, and you will tend to drift a bit so pay attention to where you are. We saw a myriad of small to medium fish, not many large ones though. I followed two tips I saw on a message board. The first was to use baby shampoo as a defogger, instead of saliva. This worked great, my mask stayed crystal clear for the entire time I had the mask on each time. The second tip was to bring a small bottle of mouthwash get rid of the salt taste, supposedly by pouring it on the snorkel mouthpiece while in the water. I didn't seem to have enough hands to do this, but did utilize it on shore to get rid of the salt taste in my mouth. There is a open air patio with a thatch roof for shade with some couches etc underneath, and clean restrooms across the street. Our daughters had some food there, and the total bill for the day was very reasonable. It was wonderful not having to rush back to the ship. We had a great time and would recommend this spot highly. The waiters did mention it was usually more crowded than it was on this day. We went back to the ship for dinner, then back out to the for some souvenir shopping in the port area. Mostly the same goods in the different shops and prices were negotiable. When we couldn't find the right size of a light jacket for our older daughter, the sales person went from shop to shop to find the right one. Unfortunately we discovered after we set sail the next day that the zipper was defective. As usual, caveat emptor. The other members of our party had a Mexican dinner on shore and sampled the nightlife. Good times were reported. Speaking of sampling the nightlife, one passenger apparently indulged in a few to many samples. The next day, I was in line at the pursers desk behind the person reporting him as missing. Known widely throughout the ship as " that dancing man," he had not been seen since the ship left Cozumel the previous night. The desk attendant insisted he had gotten back on the ship based on the computerized tracking of the ship IDs as you leave and re-enter the ship. All during dinner that night, he was being paged to call the purser's office, and people started wondering if he had fallen overboard or suffered some other mishap on ship. Debarkation: We had a flight late in the afternoon, but were still off the ship by 9:15. We spent maybe 20 minutes in line before getting to customs. Customs itself was a breeze, only took a few minutes, and found all our bags with no problem. We found a shuttle service right at the cruise port that was significantly cheaper than the service we used to get there. I don't recall the name, but they had a small kiosk right by the exit. We were at the Tampa airport by 10:30. We tried to change to an earlier flight but they were all booked. AirTran would not take our luggage until 4 hours before flight time, so we spent a couple of ours dragging 8 pieces of luggage around. The automated ticket kiosks for Airtran were out of order when we returned and the counter attendants seemed at a loss as to what to do. For starters, maybe take down the sign directing people to get in line there? I was disappointed that there was no wireless internet access in the airport unless you paid for it at the adjoining Marriott. While we were hanging around, who did we run into but the missing "dancing man"! Turns out he lost track of time at Carlos and Charlie's and missed the ship. He said it cost him about $2,000 extra to get back, between the 1 way air ticket, getting money wired to the American Embassy, etc. And that was with spending the night on the streets. The cruise agent in Cozumel emailed the ship, but apparently it was never received. It was reportedly the dreaded "computer glitch" that caused the ship's computer to show him getting back on board. Oh well, all's well that ends well. Summary: Overall had a great time, loved the ship, the staff and the dinners, while the Windjammer buffets could stand some enhancement. Would definitely do another Royal Caribbean cruise again, but would give Carnival a slight preference. Will do everything in my power to avoid tender ports in the future. Read Less
Sail Date March 2000
November, 2002 Monday, Nov 11 We left Austin at 10 a.m. and arrived in Galveston at 3 p.m. (stopped and did some last minute shopping at the Galleria in Houston). The loading period of the Splendour was listed at 1 - 5 p.m. and leaving ... Read More
November, 2002 Monday, Nov 11 We left Austin at 10 a.m. and arrived in Galveston at 3 p.m. (stopped and did some last minute shopping at the Galleria in Houston). The loading period of the Splendour was listed at 1 - 5 p.m. and leaving at 6 p.m. I was surprised to find no cars in the unloading area in front of the terminal bldg. It took only 1 minute to unload the baggage, and then drive about a ¼ of mile to the parking area. Hint: you must have cash to pay for the parking, which was $80 for 11 days. There were plenty of spaces even with two ships leaving together this day. We sat on the shuttle about 15 minutes before proceeding to the terminal again. The x-ray of our carry on luggage was very fast. Then we entered the new terminal area for check in. It was big, clean, effective, and cool. We stood in line maybe 15 minutes. There were plenty of agents on hand for check-in. I would say that this was the easiest check in of any of my six cruises. Hint: Fill out your embarkation form over the web and the agent will not have to enter all of the info while you stand around waiting. We came on board and found our room with no problem. Luggage showed up around 6 p.m. The first action was to get some seasick pills for my wife in case she needed them. You can get them only at the purser's desk, five pills no charge. Went to Windjammer and ate some lunch. Food was okay. We bought our excursions over the web a few weeks before, and the pre-paid tickets showed in our room about the same time as our luggage. Glad we did, as the line at the excursion desk was very long already. Ok, after all the reading about the drink cards on RCI, I decided to give it a try. We went up to the Viking Crown lounge before dinner and asked for a drink card. They said that they did not have any, and that we would have to go to the Schooner bar to get one. So we ordered a couple of beers instead. Do not know if they were telling the truth or not, but we had no problems with getting the card later and using it anywhere. We were the second seating, which was at 8:45 p.m. for the first two days. I had baked Cod, and Glenda had the Chicken Cordon Bleu, both were very good. Just about everyone else at our table ordered steak, which is always available. The entertainment show was at 10:30 p.m. today and tomorrow. Afterwards, the schedule changed to Show at 7:15 p.m. and dinner at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov 12 - (Day at Sea) We ate breakfast at the Windjammer as we heard that breakfast and lunch were going to be buffet style in the main restaurant also. This lasted two days until I guess the complaints from guests made them switch back to the traditional style of eating with waiters. The waiters explained that Europeans preferred buffet style. We met a couple that had been on the Splendour for its Atlantic crossing, and were staying on for this cruise, and the next one also. They really enjoyed the crossing, the ship, and crew. The weather was overcast with occasional rain, so we spent our day at the Solarium. The water was cool, but refreshing. We rushed over to the shopping talk in the theatre where we heard a very detailed description of Cozumel shopping. We went back to the Solarium for lunch. I think most people agreed that the hamburgers were not very good here. However the hot dogs and pizza were good. We went to the Windjammer for some more lunch and had Chicken Fajitas. It was funny that the flour tortillas had run out, so we asked the serving staff for more. Since this was their first time to make Tex-Mex, they did not know what a tortilla was. But they were so helpful to try and understand. We finally got the tortillas and had a nice lunch poolside. At 3 p.m. we tried the Shuffleboard competition, but were eliminated in the 1st round. We played some miniature golf, and then did the walk a mile event. We dropped by the Internet cafe and checked some email. The setup was fantastic, very modern and user friendly. The charge was 50 cents a minute. The Captain's reception was before dinner, and was very nice with a band and big dance floor. There were lots of people dancing too. I have to give RCI credit. Their ships are more dancer friendly than others that I have been on. Dinner was very good again with Filet Mignon and Duck. However our table was near the Captain's table, so our service was spotty since the waiters were taking extra care of the Captain. The show tonight was Marty Allen and his wife, and it was very, very good. We decided to stay up late and see the "Village People" at the disco in the Viking Crown lounge. The audience was a little too old however to really get into the act. When we returned to our room we had a message that our excursion had been canceled due to lack of participation. We had signed up for the Reef Snorkeling. We were disappointed since I had heard that Cozumel had great snorkeling. However, I believe that the fact that we had a much older passenger base than I had expected contributed to the lack of participation. The oldest average age on a cruise until this one was a Holland America cruise in Alaska. I would say that the average age on the Splendour was around 65 - 68. The fact that this was an 11-day cruise probably appealed to an older crowd. Wednesday, Nov 13 - (Cozumel) We decided to just shop and stroll around the town instead of booking a new excursion. As things turned out, most excursions were canceled due to problems with docking vs. tendering and bad weather. Per the captain, we were supposed to dock in Cozumel, but a Celebrity ship was already there when we arrived. So we had to tender with little warning, plus due to the currents and wind, we could not anchor. So the crew spent all day hovering the ship in place with its engines. The first two tenders left at 9:30 a.m. Here is what I have heard from several persons and the crew. When the tenders came up to the pier, they discovered that the pier and tender were significantly different heights. After trying to work something out, and running into each other, one tender got caught in a rope and broke the propeller guard. Finally around 11:00 a.m. a system was devised for the tenders and the people put ashore. Meanwhile the rest of us waited until some Cozumel tenders could be procured at late notice. By 11:15 am, we were on shore. Hurray. It stayed cloudy and windy all day, but little rain (thank goodness). There were 7 or 8 cruise ships at Cozumel that day, but it did not seem that crowded on shore. We ate at Poncho's on the Patio, which has a wonderful outside seating area with music and garden. We shopped most of the day, but prices were not as good as Laredo in my opinion. We caught the 4 p.m. tender and barely had time to change and go to our Cruise Critic party. The party was held in the back area of the Viking Crown lounge, which is the area reserved for smoking cigars. I was disappointed that we had to sit in a smoking area for the whole party. It would have been nice to have half the area for smoking and the other half for non-smoking. The party was a minor affair, but it was interesting to meet the people behind the screen names. For dinner we changed tables to sit with two couples from Houston, one being a Texas Aggie like myself. Warren and Gilda were about our age and very similar to us. This really made the cruise even more special. Warren mentioned that their private scuba dive had been called off due to rough weather. We were now 6 people total at a 10-person table. Concerning the first vs. second seating, the first seating was the overall choice for most people as there was a waiting list to change. The second seating had over a hundred seats empty, so it was easy to change. However, people were scattered all over the dining room with many tables less than half full. The next night another two couples joined us since they had been by themselves at a 10-person table. We noticed this happening all around us as people switched tables to be with a larger group. The crew was very helpful in taking care of all requests. Thursday, Nov 14 - (Day at Sea) Not much to report except that Glenda, my wife, won the gold metal for Ring Tossing! Surprised me. We continued to walk a mile each day on the ship. This was just a nice lazy day at sea to relax and enjoy. We got to learn more about Warren and Gilda and their wonderful French canal trip in Burgundy wine country. Friday, Nov 15 - (Puerto Limon, Costa Rica) We arrived two hours late in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. This caused the cancellation of several excursions, including all but one of the Rainforest Aerial Tram excursions. Lucky we had the tickets for the only Rainforest Aerial Tram that was running. We started on our excursion around 12:30 p.m. Due to leaving late and having to get back to the ship, we were not served a lunch as planned. Later, we asked the excursion desk about this, and they refunded $40 each for the shorten trip and missing meal. Excellent service and concern on their part, I must say. We rode in a very nice air-conditioned modern bus. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach the rainforest area, but the scenery was beautiful and the guide very good. Once you arrive at the rainforest, you have a chance for a rest room break, and then you can take either a shuttle or tractor pulled wagon to the tramway, about ½ mile. You walked about 100 feet and then board the tram. It holds 5 visitors and one guide. We thought the rainforest was simply amazing, but let me warn you. During the visit, we did not see much in the way of wildlife, just one bird and a few butterflies. Be expecting to see a fantastic plant and tree show, but do not expect much in the way of birds or other animals. We definitely will want to come back to Costa Rice and do this again. The tram ride was almost an hour. There is also a nice gift shop and snack bar when you return. We arrived back at the ship around 6:30 p.m. (Last tour to return). Comment about Green Train. People who had their excursions canceled were advised that there were plenty of seats on the Green Train. The people that I talked to were not too happy with the experience. The train was very slow, jerky, and not air-conditioned. The rails were in very bad shape. From the pictures that I have seen, the views were similar to the views that we had on the bus. So if you like a slow train, and have friends to talk and enjoy the views with, then you should be ok on the Green Train. Saturday, Nov 16 - (Panama Canal) We started going thru the locks on schedule at around 7:00 a.m. Warren and Gilda invited us to their balcony cabin to watch the action. Seeing the Panama Canal was well worth the trip and cost. It took about 3.5 hours to go thru the locks and anchor in the lake. Since many persons had been confused about the schedule and options of the Panama Canal, the ship's crew director made a special program played on the TV the day before. Here is what I understood. No one would be allowed off of the ship while anchored in the lake except persons with an excursion ticket. All others had to stay on board until the ship returned out of the locks, and docked at Colon. Person who was on an excursion would return to the ship when it docked. So under those conditions, we bought some tickets for the Kayak and Eco tour. Now just about everyone else had bought an excursion to get off the ship, so there were MANY people waiting to be tendered. The crew had us report to the 42nd theater and wait. As a tour was called, you would go up to the front of the theatre, get a numbered sticker, and sit in another waiting area. Later, your number was called and you proceeded to the tender station. Pretty good plan, but badly executed. It took us two hours of waiting before we were called and left the ship. Glad we waited. The tour was very nice. We stopped at the observation deck of the Gatun locks and watch ships enter and leave for a while. We then had a tour of the old US military base, which is now part of Panama. We were issued life vests and a 2-person kayak. The guides were excellent, and there was a chase boat, which followed us in case one of us overturned. The chase boat also would take pictures of you if you gave them your camera. It was relaxing and very nice. We arrived at the Colon pier, but the ship was not there yet. It showed up an hour later. The shopping area here is nice, and is more like a flea market with lots of native items. I loved the $1 Panama beer and $1 pizza here. There is a business center here where you can call home, and use the Internet for $4.50 for 30 minutes. Sunday, Nov 17 - (Day at Sea) Monday, Nov 18 - (Montego Bay, Jamaica) We docked on time for the 1st time. Hurrah. We left for Dunn's Falls on our excursion at 7:00 a.m. We had some people go in a nice large modern bus, but we unfortunately wound up in a 20-person mini-bus. The problem was the 2-hour ride to the falls and back on a very rough small road. If you have back problems, this 4-hour bus ride is a killer. However I would do it again after seeing the falls. You have a choice of climbing the falls on rocks in the water, or stay dry by using steps next to the shoreline. We were prepared to get wet, so up we went in a daisy chain holding hands. Hint: one thing to remember is to bring some cash, as you will need some tipping money for the guides at the end, and to buy the famous "I survived Dunn's Falls" tee shirts on the way out. We were able to run to the bus and change clothes and return for just a few minutes to buy some items. The vendors are very pushy here, so be prepared to just keep walking. Later we found out that we could get them cheaper at the dock shops near the ship. It came a huge rainstorm about this time, so everyone was soaked by the time they had made it back to the ship. I was very upset to find out that the pay phones in Jamaica (and Grand Cayman) would NOT accept a US calling card number. You had to buy their calling card. Tuesday, Nov 19 - (Georgetown, Grand Cayman) Early in the morning, an announcement was made that all water related activities had been canceled by the tour operators due to bad weather. The previous day no ships had been able to anchor and visit due to a storm. At least we were able to tender to the shore. Warren and Gilda called their dive shop and the owner said that it was useless to try and scuba since the water was so stirred up. So we got together and spent the day shopping and looking around. We bought tickets at the pier for a mini-bus tour of the island stopping at the Hell post office, turtle farm, and rum cake factory outlet. Cost was $15 per person and lasted 1.5 hours. We were able to get into the turtle farm for $4.50 instead of $6 by mentioning the driver's name. Reaching in and grabbing a small sea turtle was interesting and made a nice picture opportunity. Back in town, we wander down to the Hard Rock cafe and made the nicest discover on my trip. Hard Rock cafe served Tennent's beer on draft! I was in heaven as this is one of my favorite beers from Scotland, and is hard to find in the states. The food and beer was great, and Warren and Gilda such good company, it made this last stop so special. And this was also the island where Glenda found the best shopping for jewelry. Guess we will have to go back and visit the stingrays some other time. Wednesday and Thursday, Nov 20 - 21 - (Days at Sea) Nothing much to report, except lots of relaxing, reading, swimming, etc. This is a great way to end a vacation. Plenty of time to pack. Friday, Nov 22 - (Galveston) We docked in Galveston right on schedule. Colored tags were issued to everyone the night before, and we were called by colors to the theatre to visit US Immigration. Then you wait to be called off the ship. We departed the ship at 10:00, found our luggage easily, went thru customs (no waiting), and went outside. Glenda stayed with the bags as I jumped onto a shuttle to the parking lot. There were a few cars in line after returning to the terminal bldg to pick up the luggage, but nothing that bad. We were out of there by 10:30 a.m. All in all I was very pleased with the departure system. Food Yes, some of the food was only fair, but there were good items also. I believe that this is just a learning experience that will be solved on future cruises. The reason I say this is one couple at our table was always upset over the food. They mentioned that they had only 2 months before cruised on the Rhapsody of the Seas out of Galveston and that the food was excellent. Since the two ships get their food in Galveston from the same suppliers, then it is only a matter of time before the chef changes his style of cooking from European to Texas on the Splendour. The biggest complaint was that some of the steaks were too tough to cut or eat. Hint: You can always get good meals if you follow this simple rule: If you get something that is not to your liking or expectations, ASK the waiter to bring something else. They are more than willing to do whatever it takes to make you happy. Most people that complained about their food would not let the waiter do anything about it. They were happier to be mad and have something to complain about than getting something good to eat. What a terrible attitude. Shore Excursions- This was probably the oldest crowd out of our 6 cruises. That put the more active shore excursions at risk for lack of participation. The most popular excursions were bus tours of the ports as I found out from the excursion desk. Being the first cruise on this itinerary and some bad weather, there were problems with late arrivals at port and canceled excursions. We were always told up front what was going on and our options. The crew took great lengths to do the best that was possible under the circumstances, and so I am happy with their effort. However, that "Green Train" in Costa Rica still has some people fuming, so think twice before signing up for it. Be prepared to wait a while to get to the tenders at the Panama Canal, as everyone is trying to get off at the same time. Ship A very beautiful ship. We loved the dEcor and lounges. This crowd love to dance with the dance band, and that was very enjoyable. The casino was the largest that we had seen on a ship this size. I had no problems with the drink card anywhere on the ship. The solarium was nice to hang around in as the weather turned cooler nearer to Galveston. Greg.Watkins@motorola.comDecember 2002 Read Less
11-Night Circle the Caribbean Cruise Splendour....the very word itself conjures up visions of magnificence. Entering the beautiful Centrum area with the wonderful brass hanging sculpture certainly gives you a splendourous introduction ... Read More
11-Night Circle the Caribbean Cruise Splendour....the very word itself conjures up visions of magnificence. Entering the beautiful Centrum area with the wonderful brass hanging sculpture certainly gives you a splendourous introduction to 11 days of sailing. But wait, let's back up to the beginning of this cruise, and some of the basic information. We are a couple in our mid 50's, live in the Midwest and have been on several cruises. This was our second with RCI. Our cruise was booked with a pre-package from RCI at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Miami. The morning of our cruise, we pre-registered for the ship at the hotel, received our sign and sail card, room keys. Transportation from the hotel to the ship was by bus. RCI picked up our luggage at the airport, and within 1/2 hour of being on the ship, it appeared in our room. We did not have to handle it after checking it at the airport in St. Louis. Our cabin, just aft of the Centrum, was a Category C on the Bridge deck. The verandah was a good size, with 2 chairs, a small table and a lounge chair. We found this a great place to have breakfast, and late nights just enjoying the quiet. One interesting point is that C category cabins forward of the Centrum are slightly larger than those aft. Cabin furnishings consisted of a king size bed, a hide-a-bed love seat, 2 chairs, glass and brass coffee table, two padded stools, that double as storage, and shelves and storage in every nook and cranny. Our cabin was quiet, with the exception of a few footsteps overhead that came from the entrance to the Solarium area. There is a tub shower combination, and the bathroom was large enough for two people. Dining...Our table was on the balcony level of the King and I Dining Room next to the staircase and directly above the piano and violin. This proved to be a spot where it was difficult to carry on a conversation because of the music. We learned this was a problem only in this area. My usual dilemma in a cruise ship dining room is choosing one meal out of the many offered. This time I had trouble selecting one meal period. Everyone at our table seemed to have the same problem, and we all asked for substitutions at different times. One gentleman at our table summed it up saying "I think they are trying too hard." I found this to be a rather accurate description. The breads were excellent. Prime rib was offered two different nights, and was tender and tasty. I generally associate lobster as being a special meal served on a special night. Our lobster dinner was served on a casual night, and the side dish was boiled spinach. Salads were good and varied. The King and I dressing is a personal favorite. There was also an alternative dining offered. I cannot comment on this as we opted for the dining room each evening. Breakfast at the Windjammer was basically the same each day serving bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns, a choice of fruits, cereals, breads. The design of the buffet lines area in the Windjammer leaves a little to be desired. At the end of each side of lines you come together to an area that is not easily accessed when it is crowded. In this area are the drinks, and fresh fruit. One of the midnight buffets was held in the galley area. This was great as you got to see the workings of the galley, along with all the great ice and food sculptures. Another nice touch on several nights was the strolling waiters offering canapes, fruit, hors d'oeuvres, etc., in the lounges, casino, and public areas. Bars and Lounges. There are many choices of bars and lounges, from loud and rowdy depending on the time to relaxing and quiet. One of our favorite spots was the Viking Crown Lounge before dinner. It was not at all crowded, and since we had early dinner, we watched several sail aways from high atop the ship. Late at night the Viking Crown turned into the disco. Pool Area, The pool area is generally easily accessed. However, one problem, as we have found on other ships, is the towel and book in the chair problem. I did notice that the stewards around the pool periodically removed towels if no one was seated in the chair. Counting the number of people in the pool and the number of saved chairs did not compute. There were two hot tubs adjacent to the pool, and I was told getting into these proved to be a bit tricky. Activities...The activities ran the gamut from Bingo to fitness, with some just plain fun thrown in the middle. The old standards of Horse Racing, Not so Newlywed, shuffleboard, belly flop contest, and trivia were present. I was not overly impressed with the Cruise Director, but learned toward the end of the cruise that this was her last cruise. I don't know if that explained her rather lack luster attitude, or if the attitude created this being her last cruise. The miniature golf course high on the ship is a fun diversion, and a real challenge on a windy day. For $30, you receive a cap, 3 RCI golf balls, and unlimited play on the course. There were Art auctions offered several days, along with a silent auction, and what they called a special reserve price sale the last day. We were told this special sale was because this was the end of the Art Gallery's contract. I can only hope this was the end of the so called Art Auctions. Spa and Solarium...The solarium is covered with a glass canopy, and has a pool, hot tub, lounge chairs, and sitting areas with tables. But I will never figure out why there is a food bar offering hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza in this area. It just doesn't seem to fit. Or maybe it does, if you indulge in too many pieces of pizza, you can immediately go into the fitness area, and work them off. There were lots of specials offered on massages, facials, etc., and free clinics on skin care, hair care, make-up. There is a fitness area equipped with treadmills, bicycles, etc., and exercise classes offered on every level of ability. As more and more people become fitness conscious, the classes were often crowded. 42nd Street Theater... "Go before you go"is the best advice when attending an event in the theater. There are no restrooms close on this floor. In my opinion, a major design flaw. Access to the theatre is through the Casino, so no restrooms also is a problem for those playing in the casino. As for the entertainment, we found nothing really outstanding. For the most part, we felt it was "Same show, different ship." The headliner entertainment was comedian, Robert Klein, who was very funny. Casino....The casino is crowded, and difficult to navigate when busy and had the usual assortment of slot machines ranging from .25 to $5 machines, black jack tables with $5. min., Caribbean Stud tables, craps table and roulette wheel. Excursions and Islands...We are not a big believer in ship excursions on most islands, so wandered around on our own. Jamaica would be the exception to this for us, and Dunns River Falls is the main attraction there. Our day in Grand Cayman was affected by wind and high waves, and being a Sunday, most of the shops were closed. We missed going to Sting Ray City because all water activities were canceled. I love coming into Curacao, and entering the island under the bridge. Curacao could be a great place, but I have always felt it needed a good scrubbing. One plus is that we always find the people to be very helpful and friendly. I was struggling to figure out how to use one of their pay phones, and a lady sitting close by came up and handed me two coins to use. She spoke not one word of English, but saw my dilemma, and offered to help. Later on, we were waiting for the ferry on the other side of the island, and she tapped me on the shoulder and said hello. I can't comment on Key West. Because of a medical emergency with a member of our party, we spent the day there at the hospital. Cozumel was in a party mood the day we were there. Many street dancing groups, and parades going on. It really added to the atmosphere and fun of this island. Cozumel is an easy island to get around, and jeeps can be rented for the day. Just beware of the tourist on the Moped, and you have all heard about Mexican taxi rides. Carlos and Charlies is a must do in Cozumel. Why, oh, why, did they put that bar up all those steps?? Aruba is one of my all time favorites. Again, we always find friendly people there, willing to help, but not aggressive. There are two shopping centers within walking distance. The beaches in Aruba are some of the prettiest anywhere. Children's programs....In talking with couples who had children on board, they all said that the program was excellent with varied activities from quiet times to active games. The debarkation was easy. We still hang on to our old luggage and can spot it easily in the sea of black, green, and burgundy. We were off the ship and getting in a taxi by 9:30am. Overview...Little things, as always, can make the big difference. Most all of the crew seemed to genuinely enjoy what they do. We are not hard to please, but when we asked for changes, they were made with a smile, from different choices at dinner to extra towels in the cabin. Most of the people on this cruise were in the 50+ age group. We did see some families with children, and couples in their 20's, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I would definitely cruise on Splendour again. Read Less
Splendour of the Seas to the Western Caribbean, Mexico, and Honduras My husband and I, along with our great friends Len and Jo, sailed on the 10-day January 3rd departure of Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas from Galveston, ... Read More
Splendour of the Seas to the Western Caribbean, Mexico, and Honduras My husband and I, along with our great friends Len and Jo, sailed on the 10-day January 3rd departure of Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas from Galveston, Texas. This was our 18th cruise, but it had been some time since we had been on a larger ship like this. Royal Caribbean has always been known as a good choice if you are fairly new to cruising, or if you want a family vacation with the kids and/or the grandparents. We can now add another reason for taking this cruise. If you live within driving distance of Houston and Galveston, or if you live on the West coast or in the middle section of the United States, Canada, or Mexico, and you don't want to take a long airplane flight to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, San Juan, etc., consider a cruise out of Galveston. You could even come early or stay a few days after the cruise and check out the sights in Galveston, Clear Lake, and Houston. In Galveston, there is the Strand, the 1894 Grand Opera House, Moody Gardens, and the beach. In the Clear Lake area, there is Space Center, NASA, and the Kemah Boardwalk. In Houston, there are many museums, parks, sporting events, restaurants, theaters, shows, and lots of friendly people. Since we live in the Houston and Clear Lake area, our trip began with driving the 40 miles to Galveston. Luggage handlers took our bags while we parked the car ($75.00), and then we were shuttled back to the ship. No luggage, except for carry-on, was allowed on the shuttle. We were given a group number card, and were called after a few minutes to proceed to check-in. The Cabins We had booked a balcony cabin for the first time, and I enjoyed being on the balcony as we came into or left the various ports. The cabin is 190 square feet with a big bed, and a huge couch in the sitting area section. The bathroom was an adequate size, although there was only a shower, not a tub/shower combination. There was also a very generous vanity in the sitting area, and more storage space than we needed. We had 4 suitcases, and everything fit! Fellow Passengers this was our sixth Royal Caribbean cruise, and there was a larger group of Senior Citizens than I had remembered on our previous cruises. However, at our dining room table of 10, all of our dining companions were younger than us, and we really enjoyed our dinners. There were very few children, but most families with school aged children wouldn't be taking a January vacation! Dining The food was quite nice. I missed the small ship open dining times, but we had an excellent waiter, assistant waiter, and dining manager. Len celebrated his birthday on the cruise, and they treated him like a king. The food in the Lido buffet restaurant was not as good as the dining room. The Casino There are lots of slot machines and blackjack tables in the casino. There was also one craps table and one roulette table. They held 2 blackjack tournaments and 2 slot tournaments during the cruise, which were a lot of fun. Entertainment On the first formal night, Charo was the headliner. Please don't laugh - the woman plays a terrific classical guitar and is laughing all of the way to the bank. It was a very enjoyable show. On the second formal night, John Davidson was the entertainer, and he got a standing ovation. In between, there was a magician and a comedian; both were very good. The production shows were O.K., but not as good as Royal Caribbean shows I had seen in the past. The Itinerary Our first stop was supposed to be Montego Bay, Jamaica, but we were advised at check-in time that they were doing repairs to their dock, so we went to Ocho Rios instead. Our next stop was supposed to be at Grand Cayman, but the water was a little rough, and the Cayman Port Authority closed the port. Cozumel was next. We had not been there for 12 years, and I was stunned by the changes. It's not a sleepy little fishing village anymore. There were 10 ships in port, so everything was very busy. Roatan was the next stop, and this was our favorite. Be sure and take a port trip here. The government is re-doing all of the roads in the small town, so it was quite muddy, and exploring on foot would get a little messy. Also, we were there during the rainy season, but that is why the island is so green and lush. It did not rain while we were on our tour. I heard good comments about the Dolphin Encounter, and we really enjoyed our East End Discovery Tour. If you like big cities, Roatan probably won't impress you, but the people were very sweet, and their hand-crafted items are wonderful. Check out the conch shells that have a cameo image carved into them. They are not cheap, but they are some of the most beautiful art work I have ever seen. Our last stop was Key West, and it was much too short a time there. All too soon, we were sailing back to Galveston. It's hard to believer that ten days could pass so quickly. Summary Royal Caribbean is offering very attractive prices for the cruises out of Galveston. They have 7 day itineraries available on the Rhapsody of the Seas, and longer cruises on the Splendour that do a partial Panama Canal route, besides this route. In addition, there was a small senior citizens discount available on this cruise for anyone 55 and over. There are tons of activities available every day, so you can do as much or as little as you wish. There's a very nice indoor pool with 2 hot tubs, as well as the outdoor pool area. At the top of the ship is a miniature golf course. The card room was filled most afternoons with bridge players. The exercise room is more than adequate. Everyone we met seemed to be enjoying themselves. What needs to be improved? 1. Like a lot of large cruise lines, Royal Caribbean does not want you to bring your own liquor on board to consume in your cabin. There is a liquor store on board, however, and we discovered, by sheer accident, that on the first night of the cruise, you could buy a bottle of liquor (they always add a $9.50 surcharge per bottle to the price), and they would include a bottle of 'Brand X' gin or vodka at no extra charge. I did not see that special advertised anywhere, so ask. I didn't see any other specials for the rest of the cruise. 2. It took 5 hours for us to receive the last of our four bags in our cabin. You might want to keep a few extra goodies in your carry-on bag if you need something before dinner or for dinner. There were a lot of blue jeans in the dining room the first night. 3. After you get off the ship, you are truly on your own if you drove your own car. We got the luggage without any problem, but then one person has to guard the luggage while the other person uses the shuttle to retrieve the car. Remember that they don't allow luggage on the shuttle. It took my husband 45 minutes to get back to the dock with the car, and the one with the luggage is standing outside (it was 45 degrees that day, as we had a rare cold front come in), with no cover, bathrooms, heat, or air conditioning. They need buses that can take you and your luggage to the car. This would prevent the big logger-jams at the dock, also. arichter1@houston.rr.com April 2003 Read Less
About Us We are Gary (51), Lisa (44) and David (9) Hoover from Brazoria, Texas - about 60 miles from the Port of Galveston. This was our 4th cruise and our 1st cruise on Royal Caribbean. Our other cruises were: - Celebrity Mercury ... Read More
About Us We are Gary (51), Lisa (44) and David (9) Hoover from Brazoria, Texas - about 60 miles from the Port of Galveston. This was our 4th cruise and our 1st cruise on Royal Caribbean. Our other cruises were: - Celebrity Mercury (December 1998) - Carnival Celebration (February 2001) - Celebrity Millennium (December 2001) Before we started cruising, we traveled to the Caribbean almost every year since our honeymoon in 1980. The Ship What can I say, the Splendour is just gorgeous. We are so thrilled to have a ship this nice sailing from Texas. She is big, but not too big and very easy to get around. She's immaculate and does not show her age, as far as I can tell. The only thing I saw in disrepair was the glass on our balcony railing, which was cracked. The Cabin We had cabin 7130, which is Category D. It's one of the famous aft balconies and was a fun neighborhood, too. The balcony is big enough for 2 lounge chairs and a small table with plenty of space left over. There was hardly any wind, even when the rest of the ship was about to blow away. Often, we had a choice of sun or shade. We will try to book aft cabins from now on. However, if you don't like to walk, don't book an aft cabin on the Splendour. There are no stairs or elevators back there. You have to go amidships to go up or down. I liked getting the extra exercise. I didn't gain a pound on this cruise. The cabin is long and narrow, with two twins beds pushed together and a full size couch, which looked brand new. The couch folded out to make a futon size mattress. My son had no trouble sleeping on it. The only thing is that once it was made into a bed, it never tucked back in quite right and was hard to sit on at times. All of the cabin furnishings seemed brand new - except the TV and the lounge chairs. There was more than enough storage space for 3 people on a 10-day cruise. There were plenty of hangers in the closet and shelves everywhere. The Service The overall service was excellent on this cruise. Our cabin attendant did a great job. Our son really enjoyed the towel animals. I ordered room service every morning and it came on time and was mostly what I ordered. On the last two days, they sent decaf tea (ick). I called and they brought me regular right away. A note for Earl Grey drinkers: In the Windjammer they only have Lipton's Earl Grey, which I thought wasn't worth brewing. However, for room service they brought Twinings, which is pretty good for tea bags. (I drink loose tea at home.) Our dining room service was outstanding. We had table 111, on the top level. It was a table for 10. In addition to the three of us, we had six wonderful tablemates. After the first night, they took the extra place away. Our waiter was Pedro, our assistant was Thomas, and our headwaiter was Miguel. Pedro was very entertaining, for the kids and adults alike. He showed the kids how to make things out of the napkins. One night he made roses out of paper napkins for the female contingent (3 women and 1 girl) at the table. We saw Miguel more on this cruise than any other headwaiter we've seen. He was very helpful with kids food and the wine. There were more bar servers around the pool than we've seen on previous cruises. They walked around saying "bar service, cocktails." I don't remember that on Celebrity. I guess that is a difference between Celebrity and RCI. The Food Now I leave the world of rave reviews to talk about the food. Just to let you know, I'm a picky eater and food - growing it, cooking it and eating out - is my hobby. I had read enough to know that I was not going on this cruise for the food. I was right. The Windjammer I always found something in the Windjammer to eat. Twice I found something really good - a spicy pasta dish and vegetarian chili. The first day I had breakfast in the Windjammer. The scrambled eggs had a weird taste. They have eggs and omelets to order, but you had to wait in line for them. So, after the first day, I ordered omelets from room service - which were pretty good. The rolls in the Windjammer were good and they had prepackaged butter that was tasty. The salad bar was the same every day. The lettuce was romaine with some mixed greens. The salad dressings that I tried weren't very good. The blue cheese wasn't very blue cheesy and the ranch was too sweet. The iced tea on the ship was awful, but I made my own with hot tea and a glass of ice. The cheese was presliced and somewhat bland. That in itself saved me a ton of calories. I could go on, but I won't. The Mexican Buffet by the Pool They had refried kidney beans! The chips were from a package. The chili con queso was too thick and very bland. The guacamole was prepackaged. But, if you put enough jalapenos on it, it was okay. :-) The King and I Thank goodness for the King and I dining room. It is lovely and airy. The service was outstanding and the food was good. The garlic soup was yummy. There was no problem ordering multiple entries or sending things back. There were a couple of great chocolate deserts. I was a little disappointed in the chocolate soufflE. I'm a chocolate junkie and it wasn't chocolaty enough for me. But the flourless chocolate cake was rich and wonderful. Our tablemates and the food service made the meal special. The Wine Evidently, RCI recently did away with wine stewards. They shouldn't have. Our wine service was confused, to say the least. On the first night, we ordered a wine package. It was 6 bottles for $129 plus tip. This package was a good value and had much better wines than the 10 for $155 package did. However, the service team didn't know about the package, even though we picked up the flier outside the dining room. They eventually figured it out. We ordered a Barbaresco almost every night. It was regularly $32 on the wine list. There was also a nice French red on the list that our tablemates liked. I liked it too, but liked the Italian better. One night we ordered a Puilly-Fuisse, which was also on the list. It was also very good. Pedro kept getting the wine mixed up. One night, he swapped our bottles. We knew it was our bottle since it was the second bottle we had ordered the previous night. We didn't say anything since we were tasting each other's wines anyway and it didn't really matter. This was just one episode of wine service confusion. Miguel, our headwaiter, picked up a lot of the slack in the wine department. Once we drank our 6 bottles, we ordered off the list. At one point, Pedro got confused and wanted us to pay for an extra bottle. He finally checked with the cellar master and got it all straightened out. I think. I was confused by this time also. Maybe he was right. Obviously, we are winos and have had a bottle of wine with dinner every night of every cruise we've been on. This is the first time that wine service was so mixed up. The best wine service on the cruise was from our neighbor Dobie. I walked out on the veranda one evening and she offered me a glass of champagne. It and the company were very good. Thanks Dobie! The second best wine service was from the pool bar. If you order champagne there, they don't have glasses. They pour it in a cup and you get a lot more that way. I took it back to our room and poured it in a glass to drink. The Wine Tasting Since we were not Crown and Anchor members, we paid $7 apiece for the wine tasting. It was disorganized at first. They didn't have enough cheese or places for everyone to sit. They did rectify that after a while. In addition, we didn't taste in wine glasses, but in those little silver colored, plastic cups that sommeliers wear around their necks. So, you couldn't swirl to get the bouquet or even see the color or the legs. You really need a glass for tasting wine. I won't do another wine tasting on Royal Caribbean. Shore Excursions Cozumel -- We rented a Jeep through LessPay for $60. It was pretty beat up, but it ran. We drove through town and up to the house we like to rent when we go to Cozumel. We ran into one of the caretakers, Rosie. It was great to see her. We will be going back there on our next vacation. After that, we drove to Dzul Ha and went snorkeling. The snorkeling was very good there, although above the water, the scenery is not so great. We ate at Dzul Ha. The food was okay and we didn't get turista. They had a really, really hot salsa that was incredible. We were not in Cozumel long enough. I think we had to be back on the ship by 4 and we didn't even get off until 10 or so. Grand Cayman -- We tendered here. We got a bus to the Holiday Inn beach. It was a nice beach, but too crowded. The day at the beach including the ride there, 2 beach chairs, lunch and 2 beers cost $100. Grand Cayman is expensive and has no soul. I wouldn't be sad if I never went back. Jamaica -- We love Jamaica, but Mobay is depressing. The shops at the port have mostly junk. We didn't go into town, so maybe it was better there. In the afternoon, we did a ship's excursion. It was the catamaran snorkeling and party boat. It was supposed to have rum punch, sodas and beer. All they had was rum punch and regular punch. The boat was a big, 2 story, motorized catamaran. It had viewing windows in the hulls; so, we got a glass bottom boat ride thrown in. We went to a reef and the snorkeling was pretty good. They were a good variety of fish, and some healthy coral. There was a lot of dead coral there too. After snorkeling, they took us to Margaritaville. We got to stay there a whole 30 minutes, and we had to tender from our boat. We were not too happy with that. However, I did have time to go down the water slide and it was a blast. Gary got to go down it also. We got a couple of margaritas for the ride back. They were very good. Next time we stop in Jamaica, we'll just take a cab to Margaritaville. Roatan -- Here we did our own excursion with some fellow Cruise Critics. We went to Paya Bay resort. It's an unspoiled, rustic resort on the east end of the island. It takes about an hour to get there from the ship. I loved it. It was remote and uncrowded and the scenery is beautiful. We had a lunch of shrimp and lobster. The shrimp were excellent and the lobster was ok. The sides were rice and potatoes, so I skipped that. (They served rice with everything on the ship.) The local beer (Salva Vida) was only $2 and very good. The resort filled a cooler with beer and soda for us to take down to the secluded beach. It's a small beach, but gorgeous. In the afternoon, we went in a small flat bottom boat to snorkel. It was a little rough, but I had no trouble snorkeling. This was the best snorkeling that I have ever seen. The coral was very healthy and diverse. There were many different species of fish. And, the reef was shallow, so the view was wonderful. Roatan was my favorite port. Key West -- We were only here from 7 to 2 and had to be back on the ship at 1:30. Plus, we had to clear immigration before we got off, so no one really got off until after 9. Here is where we had a bad experience with a shore excursion and it was RCI's fault. My husband and son booked the PT Boat ride for 9:30 am. We had planned to meet after that for lunch, since I wasn't interested in going on the excursion. The day before Key West, we got a note that the excursion had been changed to 11:30. They still decided to go. I went into town by myself to shop. There was an art fair in Key West that day and I bought a flamingo painting. I love it. I got souvenirs for David's class. Key West has some good shops for bulk souvenirs and I had a great time in Key West. When I got back to the ship, I ran into Gary and Dave. They said they couldn't find their boat. They thought that they missed it. They met at the pier at the appointed time, and the RCI rep told them that they needed to take the tram to town and go to the other dock. They did and there was no PT boat. They walked around a little and then came back to the ship. Since we were in Key West for such a short time and they spent most of tracking down a non-existent shore excursion, their day there was wasted. Later that afternoon, after we were long gone from Key West, we got a note in the cabin that said the excursion had been canceled. Of course they got a refund, but they didn't couldn't get back their wasted time. Entertainment and Activities The entertainment on board was great. We went to most of the shows and they were very good. I laughed so hard I cried at Joey Van's show. I loved the guitar player, Mario. The band was great and so were the dancers. I did fall asleep in one production show, so I skipped the other. Gary and Dave loved it. Marty Allen was funny and his wife was a great straight woman. I thought Gordon Whatman, the cruise director, was a hoot. He was always cracking me up. There were too many activities to keep track of. Since the weather was so nice on this cruise, we mostly stayed by the pool or on our balcony. There was a lot of stuff going on at night and we missed it all, I'm afraid to say. It looked like fun when we watched some of it on TV, though. :-) Adventure Ocean My son decided he didn't like the kids' activities on this ship. We were surprised, since on our last cruise on the Millennium, we couldn't keep him out of the kids club. Nor on our other Celebrity cruise. It took a while to figure out, but he didn't hit it off with one of the counselors, Brad. One day, I dropped Dave off and he asked Brad what they were going to do that day. Brad blew him off with "I can't tell you." and went back to what he was doing. Dave looked at me and wanted to leave then. He was the only kid over 5 that was there at that time. Another time, during the family water balloon event, Brad said, "If you drop it, you'll get all wet and look stupid." If Brad said stuff like that often, then I can see why Dave didn't want to go. Dave's not athletic and he's sensitive about it. Other stuff A guy down the hall from us got busted for having marijuana on the morning we were in Key West. We could smell it in the hall every night. He was smoking in his inside cabin. They bring on dogs in Key West and they sniffed it out. They took him off in handcuffs. In another Key West incident, a woman slapped a teenager that she didn't know on the crowded stairway when we were trying to get off the ship. Evidentially, the kid cussed and woman slapped him. His mother was a flight up and went ballistic. It was so crowded that she couldn't get down to the slapper. The rest of us were standing there in stunned silence. I heard that later they all ended up at the purser's desk. Summary We had a great time on this beautiful ship. We'll certainly sail Royal Caribbean again. The Good, in no particular order: Service Activities Ship People Entertainment Cabin Perfect weather Snorkeling Wine prices Dining room food The Okay Jamaica shore excursion Windjammer food The Bad Key West Shore Excursion canceled without notice Ice tea The Ugly The cracked glass on the balcony The slapping incident Well, that's all folks! Happy Cruising. lhoover@sat.net May 2003 Read Less
Jerry and I are the ones who drove 1890 miles to the cruise, Northern California to Galveston. We had a great trip, stopping along the way at Schulenburg, TX, for some great BBQ and also at Sonora, TX. If Sonora is on your way, make a stop ... Read More
Jerry and I are the ones who drove 1890 miles to the cruise, Northern California to Galveston. We had a great trip, stopping along the way at Schulenburg, TX, for some great BBQ and also at Sonora, TX. If Sonora is on your way, make a stop there, the downtown is not to be missed. Very well restored. If you are very lucky (and we were), the "downtown lady" will give you a personal tour. We stayed several days in Galveston before the tour, going to Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid and the Railroad Museum. If you are a train buff, this is not to be missed. We got to the port at 10:30 AM, and Jerry dropped me and parked in the Port Parking Lot. You pay in advance ($80 for 11 days, which is reasonable compared to California ports), and they run a continuous shuttle. You have to drop your luggage at the ship first, there is no luggage allowed on the shuttle. We were on the ship by noon. We had booked a "C" mini-suite, and the suite folks (and frequent cruisers) had a special check-in area). Our luggage reached us within a half hour of our boarding, a new record. We ate lunch and did the emergency drill, then went to Joe and Paula's cabin (Joebat1) for cocktails, and to meet them and Doug and Pat. We've been corresponding on and offline for months, and its fun to meet. In fact, we hang around a lot, we enjoy each other's company so. The ship was well maintained and clean. About my only complaint was the fact that there were no bathrooms on Deck 4 at all. This is one of the two decks that have most of the public rooms. I guess RCI wanted to cram as much public space into the deck as possible, but its inexcusable. Many people complained about it during the course of the week. We took part in two "Academy at Sea" programs -- Photography with Nicholas and Hospitality with Allan. They met every sea day for one hour each (a total of four hours). The next to the last day at Photography you get to take a picture with the instructor's camera, which you are given the next day. Also a group picture is taken, and you are given that, too. The hospitality class explained all the various bar glasses, then how to prepare for a party. The third class was the history of beer, and graduation was a wine class. You got a wine tasting cup at that, in addition to the certificate you got at each class. If you bought the bar recipe book, you got a note on your receipt giving you one free drink, which brought the price of the book down to about $5-6. Most of the morning offerings on the ship centered around fitness. If you weren't into exercise, you better be able to amuse yourself. We played dominoes some, having brought our own. There were many people playing bridge and dominoes, and the game room had many games to choose from. There is also a well stocked library, which has a news summary from the New York Times each day. Several times I laid down a book or magazine of mine there for someone else. The art auction specialized in a core group of artists, one of whom was Fanch Ledan, who I like. Unfortunately, the prints are generally unframed, as opposed to on Princess where they come framed. But the prices were mostly good. Roy was the auctioneer, and I have to say he was very informative, and I liked him and his presentations. In the afternoons about 3 PM there were plenty of non-athletic activities, all at once. Poor planning. We did some trivia, and many of the art auctions. We'd requested a table for two for dinner. We like to have dinner together, and mingle at the other meals. When we boarded the ship, we found our cruise cards had one table assignment, crossed out, and another substituted, a table for ten! We went back out to see the headwaiter (who was in the terminal building for some reason), and he said he didn't know what he could do, early seating was full. Now if I wanted late seating...I told him no, I didn't, I'm diabetic. He put "medical" next to my request for a change. We were told to see him that night after dinner outside the dining room. We'd been changed to a table for two. I'm sure we had the best waiter and headwaiter in the dining room, Luis and "Go." When the kitchen was slow, "Go" would get the entree for the "duet tables" and serve us while Luis waited for the rest of the plates. He also made several pastas, and always brought a "taster plate" to each table in his section (not all the other headwaiters did). I thought the food was "middle America" good. Not spectacular, but certainly tasty. The veggies were crunchy, and the meat was mostly well cooked, except that some of the steaks were tough for some reason. The lobsters were much larger than on any other ship we've been on. There were many quiche-like tart appetizers (or even main dishes at lunch), and chilled fruit soups (think smoothie). There was always a rosemary chicken breast (delish!) and a steak and fish available (usually salmon), as well as Caesar salad. There were sugar free desserts at every meal. We ate most all of our meals in the dining room. We went to the buffet for lunch twice, and it just wasn't appetizing to me. I'm fussy, and the chafing dishes looked like troughs of food to me. But there were things there that weren't in the dining room, like pasta made to order at every lunch and dinner, and a cheese bar at dinner. There were also Panini sandwiches and hero sandwiches, and there was a pizza and hot dog and hamburger bar, which I didn't go to. There was coffee available outside the buffet most of the day and night. "Seattle's Best," is what they called it. I dunno. I don't like my coffee that strong. By the afternoons you could cut off a chunk it was so strong. We had room service coffee most mornings, and I ordered a container of milk with it for my coffee so I didn't have to use phony stuff. I also ordered dry cereal several times, or got some from the buffet, so I'd have snack food (one of the choices was a granola). After not being out of bed the third morning when room service came, I put "Please call first" on the tag at the bottom each day, and they did. We bought several water bottles on board, and when they were empty we filled them at the water container in the buffet. When we'd go up after dinner to do this, the headwaiter at the door was very gracious, telling us how good it was to drink a lot of water. We had a fridge, so we'd keep a full bottle or two in there overnight, to make it ice cold. Our suite was roomy, by ship's standards. The balcony had two lounge chairs and two regular chairs and a small table. The cabin had a sofa (converts to a bed, but there would be no space if it did) and two easy chairs, as well as three closets. There is plenty of room for suitcases under the rack-like beds. The mattresses sit on metal platforms, making them very firm. Fine for me, but not for Jerry or anybody who likes a soft bed. There was a tub with a shower over it. I had brought a bathtub mat, thanks to someone on Cruise Critic mentioning that the non-slid stuff in the bathtub wasn't good. They were right. Thank you! There were plenty of shelves, drawers, etc. Our room steward made some cute towel animals, but otherwise was only barely average. The room was clean, but he never changed the toilet paper, we had to ask for more Kleenex, and it took three days to get our cleaning back! He got the minimum expected tip (unlike Luis, who of course got more). We didn't go anywhere at all in Coz. In Costa Rica we took the Tortugero Canal tour, which I'd recommend. You see a lot of wildlife, and the guide is good at pointing it out. They turn the boat around so both sides can see things. In Panama we did the Two Oceans Railway. We paid extra for the observation car, but if I had it to do again, I wouldn't. It was very hot there, and you could see well from anywhere. They were running late, so when we got off the train near Miraflores, they did a "drive through" of most of the area except for the locks. We got to spend about a half hour there watching a ship be lowered. We'd seen our ship and the ship next to us be raised at Gatun locks in the morning. Joe and Paula had a starboard cabin, and we had a portside one, and we'd made a deal that whoever had the best view for the canal would invite everybody else over. It's a good idea to make an arrangement like this, because if you're not on the side of the ship where you've got another ship next to you, you really don't see much. We had a great view in Joe and Paula's cabin (Doug and Pat were there, too), and Paula ordered tons of breakfast. We could actually call out to the workers, we were so close to them. We did the Rose Hall tour in Jamaica. It was very hot there, but interesting. On the way back to the ship they stop at a local crafts market (where they *insist* that you bargain), and then we were taken downtown for about 40 minutes. I loved the Jamaican guide we had, Yvette, and her "No problem, mon," attitude to everything. The crafts market had the Jamaican version of Aloha shirts, with Rasta men on them, and many of the men on the ship wore their new shirts to dinner that night. In Grand Cayman we did the City Tour. Everyone tenders there, and there were seven ships in port. The tour terminal is a madhouse. Princess charged $30 for the exact same tour you could book on shore for $15 (the van even had the "City Tour & Turtle Farm $15" placard in its windshield). I'd suggest not using the ship for this tour. We did the turtle farm, went to Hell (sent postcards to my former employer) and were dropped back in the very expensive shopping area. We had a great time, made more so by all the friends from Cruise Critic and all the other people on the ship. Disembarkation was chaotic, as always. Once off the ship, the luggage was easy to find. Mine was the one with the unattached wheels sitting on top of it. Don't bring new luggage, another Cruise Critic member had a ruined suitcase on the same ship. The porter parked me in the waiting area, and Jerry went for the car. In 17 minutes he was back, we were loaded, and on the way. fmodena@yahoo.com June 2003 Read Less
Review of CruiseDennis and Sharon Reeves Royal Caribbean Splendour of the SeasTransatlantic, Barcelona to Galveston 15 days October 27, 2002 to November 11, 2002 Embarkation Embarkation was one of the smoothest and fastest we have ... Read More
Review of CruiseDennis and Sharon Reeves Royal Caribbean Splendour of the SeasTransatlantic, Barcelona to Galveston 15 days October 27, 2002 to November 11, 2002 Embarkation Embarkation was one of the smoothest and fastest we have enjoyed in six cruises, four of them with Royal Caribbean. We checked our baggage immediately upon arrival at the terminal in Barcelona at approximately 12:30 p.m. We moved through the check-in line in about 15 minutes or less and immediately boarded the ship. The Ship Splendour of the Seas entered the market as a new cruise ship in the year 1996. It does not show much wear and tear, as good maintenance has obviously kept the vessel in near-new condition. During our cruise, for instance, carpets were continuously being replaced where needed. The only complaint we had was that the sofa in our stateroom was very soiled. We reported this condition to our stateroom attendant and he saw to it that the sofa was immediately cleaned and restored to good condition. Our inside, deck 2 state room was indeed adequate, and our attendant cleaned it very well twice daily. Public Areas of the Ship The two-story dining room is beautiful, with full length windows overlooking the sea. The 42nd Street showroom is only one story; however, it has excellent sight lines with no obstructions to views. There is a wonderfully appointed library and a large card room. The swimming pool areas, especially the indoor Solarium pool area, are very well designed and provide much relaxation and enjoyment for passengers. All other areas are well designed and are equal-to or better than the other "Vision Class" ships of RCL, with the exception of the Windjammer Cafe. The inside part of the Windjammer is too small to accommodate the passenger loads of this ship, and it is poorly designed. Each time we ate in the Windjammer we had trouble finding a table, were crowded in the buffet areas, and were continually bumping into other passengers. The flows of passengers through the cafe are confusing and poorly designed. An example of this is that the normal traffic flow of the breakfast buffet has the passengers arriving at the hot cereal station prior to arriving at the station for cereal bowls! As to maintenance and service in the Windjammer, we found it to be marginal at best. Tables are poorly cleaned, if at all, as dining parties left, and the number of waiters or maintenance personnel seemed to be greatly reduced from the numbers we experienced in the Vision of the Seas Windjammer Cafe in October of 2001. Entertainment and Activities On this fifteen-day cruise, we felt that the entertainment, with the exception of two nights, was outstanding. It is unfortunate that a mediocre magician and a fairly new lower quality comedian were allowed to taint an otherwise great entertainment experience. We greatly enjoyed comedian Marty Allen and his wife, world-famous tenor Renato Pagliari, concert pianist Charles Brunner, and other exceptional entertainers. Pagliari and Brunner even provided an extra matinee performance for us where they performed together. This was unplanned and was specially arranged by our Cruise Director Richard Cooper. Richard Cooper saw to it that we enjoyed "Academy at Sea" and many other activities to keep us happily engaged. We rate Richard Cooper as one of the finest we have seen on any cruise. Shore Excursions We were well-served by our cruise staff in handling of the shore excursions. All debarkations and embarkations went smooth, and the excursions we took were well worth the money and were educational and enjoyable. We highly recommend the city tours of Barcelona, Malaga, and Tenerife. Dining Our dining experience was very good. We were assigned to a dining room table of four, and were concerned that the cruise line may not be able to match us well with another couple. Our fears were misplaced, however, as we were paired with excellent companions from Canada (we are a retired couple from the United States.) My wife's birthday is June 11th, and Sandra's birthday is June 10th. My birthday is August 11th, and Scott's birthday is also June 11th!! Now, is that an excellent match or what?? The dining room food, as well as that of the Windjammer and the Solarium cafes was very good to excellent. A great selection of steaks, seafood entrees, and pasta dishes were available, as well as numerous other main courses, appetizers, and desserts. The desserts seem to improve with every RCL cruise that we take over the years. Our dining room service from Waiter, Assistant Waiter, and Head -Waiter were excellent, with constant attention to our every need and desire. We did find that since our cruise on RCL last year, soft drinks are no longer free in the dining room. They are billed to your account at $1.50 each. One small thing is that mints are no longer available to passengers upon exiting the dining room. A positive change is that on sea days there are buffet breakfasts and brunches available in the main dining room. This offset, to some degree, the negative experiences we had in the Windjammer cafe. Debarkation Our son was picking us up in Galveston. We wanted to get off the ship early, because he was waiting in the parking area for us. We, however, had one of the worst debarkation experiences we have ever had on a cruise, and were delayed getting off. Each group leaving the ship was assigned a specific color of luggage tags, depending upon type and time of transportation the group was planning. The debarkation process went very slowly. After about two hours of debarkation, I leaned over the deck four railing to watch the passengers leaving the ship. It soon became apparent that other than the first group or two, the crew paid little or no attention to which color of tags were possessed by the passengers. It was also apparent that there were very few passengers leaving the ship! I finally recommended to my wife that even though our color and others had not been called yet, we should start moving toward deck one and the debarkation point. When arrived on deck two, we overhead the Cruise Director say, "there is hardly anybody aboard ship, let's just tell everyone to go to deck one." Our son had to wait at least one or two hours for us to get off the ship, when I am not sure the wait would have been necessary. Overall Impression The cruise had the makings of an excellent cruise. With the exception of two poor entertainers, a negative Windjammer experience, and a poor debarkation process, it was. Thank you to all the RCL staff for their hard work. I trust they will learn from and improve the problem areas! dreeves@networld.com February, 2003 Read Less
As I prepared to go on my first cruise, I was excited to hear about all the fun things on the ships. Boarding the ship, I was still excited. However, after my first day aboard the ship, I was disappointed. I am 32 years old and single. I ... Read More
As I prepared to go on my first cruise, I was excited to hear about all the fun things on the ships. Boarding the ship, I was still excited. However, after my first day aboard the ship, I was disappointed. I am 32 years old and single. I was hoping to have fun and meet some people that would make my adventure all the more better. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the passengers were retirees. I think I saw a total of 20 people that did not have gray hair. Everywhere you looked, older people. Now that does not bother me at all, all the people I met on the ship were quite enjoyable. The only thing was there was nothing for a 30 something person to do. There were late night dances, but not only who are you going to dance with, but would you know the music? The entertainment was also geared to the older people and I didn't know any of them. Overall the service aboard the ship was very nice. Everyone was pleasant and it seemed as though they all loved their jobs and working with the passengers. The only thing that I would have changed about the service is my table assignment for dinners. Originally, I was at table "15" (don't remember the actual number) and because of seating with the group I was with, I switched tables to table "29" (again, I don't remember the actual number). The service was going from that of a restaurant serving $40 plates to McDonalds. Having to ask for NOTHING to having to ask for EVERYTHING, . . . TWICE! The cabin steward was WONDERFUL! He was kind and always happy and regardless where he saw us, he would say hello and call us by name. Overall, I was disappointed in the adventure on the Splendour of the Seas, but I am looking forward to doing more research and trying it again!! mjanikow@msn.com March 2003 Read Less
We took the February 24 Panama Canal cruise on Splendor of the Seas. This was our fourth cruise and first on a Royal Caribbean ship. I would rate this cruise worse than the others but that was not all bad. This was the easiest ship to ... Read More
We took the February 24 Panama Canal cruise on Splendor of the Seas. This was our fourth cruise and first on a Royal Caribbean ship. I would rate this cruise worse than the others but that was not all bad. This was the easiest ship to board. Even though we got to the ship early (we only live 30 miles away) boarding was quick and easy. Parking was no problem but have $80 ready as you must pay in cash in advance. We were on the ship in time for lunch and our cabin was clean and ready. About 2 hours after boarding our luggage was delivered to the cabin. The cabins showed their age but were well kept by our steward who was friendly and attentive. We had a mini-suite which was of good size with plenty of closet space and adequate drawer space. The beds were low and caused a problem when trying to store our suitcases under them. They were also hard and both my wife and I had problems sleeping. There are only 2 places to eat on the ship, either the main dining room or the buffet. There were a few mini-buffets on the pool deck for lunch. The dinner food varied from fair to very good. One fish dish seemed spoiled with a strong smell and was inedible. Service was very good, friendly and attentive. After only a couple of meals our waiters knew our preferences and catered to our wants without being asked. The headwaiter never failed to stop by our table and talk with us and ask if we needed anything. Breakfast was a weak point. Dining room service was slow and we only ate there a couple of times. Don't order huevos rancheros which was 2 eggs with some tomato sauce and a bowl of pork and beans. The breakfast buffet was a European menu, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and potatoes every day without variation. Pancakes and French toast were available but they were precooked and were invariably cold and served with cold syrup. There was a small selection of fruit and cold cuts and cheese. The breads were always good at all meals. There is an omelet station which was very good but it was impossible to get hot eggs and fresh toast at the same time since each involved waiting at different spots while they were prepared. There is no coffee service so a second cup is difficult if you are alone because you have to go back to the buffet to get it yourself and since the room is crowded in the morning you will probably lose your table. Lunch in the dining room was the best part of the dining experience. Service was fast and the food was always good with several excellent choices at every meal. We tried the buffet twice and while the food was adequate the room was crowded and it didn't compare to the dining room. The stage entertainment was some of the best we have seen on all of our cruises. The musical shows were all excellent with wonderful voices and dancers. The entertainers that were brought on the ship at various ports were all outstanding, including a couple of afternoon shows, and everything brought standing ovations. Daytime activities at sea were not as good but this was not a problem as we used the time to relax, read and just kick back. They had a lecture series on the Panama Canal and the Caribbean which was excellent. Other than the canal and Grand Cayman we didn't care much for the ports. Jamaica was especially bad as our "Best of Jamaica" tour was a total loss. We complained and the ship returned half of the cost. Going through the canal was awesome. We were perfectly positioned to watch from our balcony as we locked through. It was the highlight of the trip. Grand Cayman was beautiful. It was also clean and without all the pushy street vendors of the other ports. Overall we would rate the trip average. On a scale of 1 to 5 the ship was a 3, the food was a 3, the entertainment was a 5 and the ports were a 3 only because of the Canal, otherwise they would be a 2. Perhaps this cruise suffered from the fact that our previous cruise was Alaska. dicka@ev1.net June 2003 Read Less
Let me begin by saying that any critic of any of the 11 cruises we have been on is comparing "degrees of excellence". That said, there were some small annoying issues concerning this cruise. Our mattresses seemed to have seen ... Read More
Let me begin by saying that any critic of any of the 11 cruises we have been on is comparing "degrees of excellence". That said, there were some small annoying issues concerning this cruise. Our mattresses seemed to have seen better days and by the end of the cruise we were dreading another night regardless of how tired we were. We never had cold water from our basin, and our a/c never cooled the room to good sleeping temperature until about 3:AM . We kept it turned fully down the whole time and still could never cool it down. Getting a glass of water anywhere on the ship other than dining facilities required purchasing it for $1.73 per glass. The ship ran out of regular iced tea about the eighth day and had only a sickly sweet concoction. At our nightly dinner service, out assistant waitress went to the kitchen and brewed our iced tea. The noon dining staff refused to do this. Other than the filet; forget the steaks, as they were always overcooked. The other menu items were generally very well prepared and presented. This did not include the red snapper filet, which was tasted old and strong. The Windjammer was a very pleasant surprise, both in accommodation and quality. The entertainment was the best of any cruise we have been on, night after night. We have rebooked on this ship for 10 day carib cruise in March. We have been on the Rhapsody four times and believe it to be a better managed ship. Again remember we are talking about "degrees of excellence". Thank you for this opportunity.DSK250@cs.comMarch 2003 Read Less
Just returned from a fabulous vacation aboard "Splendour of the Seas." We did the 11 day Circle the Caribbean. November 27 - December 8. Saturday - Flew from Vancouver, Canada to Miami two days before hand (smart). Spent the ... Read More
Just returned from a fabulous vacation aboard "Splendour of the Seas." We did the 11 day Circle the Caribbean. November 27 - December 8. Saturday - Flew from Vancouver, Canada to Miami two days before hand (smart). Spent the evening hanging around our Hotel (Sonesta Beach Resort) and having drinks at the Pool Bar - great bartender - Gino! Sunday - Went exploring South Beach in the morning -- what an excellent place for people watching. We had a fantastic time. Stopped for lunch on Ocean Drive and watched the "creatures" go by. Then we took a cab to Bayside for a little shopping. Returned to the hotel for dinner. Monday - Took a cab to the port at about 11:30 did all the checking in which is a story unto itself. They seemed to think my Canadian Landed immigrant status had expired (I'm English) -- put the fear of God into me -- little did I know that they can't read but of course I didn't get my documents back until the end of the cruise so I spent 11 days dreading going through US Immigration and the threat of having to pay $170 US that RCI informed me I would have to pay. Turned out no problem with immigration and didn't pay a dime. B Boarded without incident we were in our cabin by about 12:30. We booked 7128 at the aft -- oh my goodness were we ever pleased with this cabin. The "Ds" on the side had two small chairs and one small table. We had one small chair, one small table and three lounge chairs. It was huge. Will always try to book an aft cabin from now on. Bought two litres of Vodka on board for $19.00 no problem taking them back to the cabin. On this subject -- we bought beer in Jamaica and Grand Marnier in Grand Cayman - no problem taking it to your room. Tuesday - Key West - we didn't book any excursions here, just did our own thing and walked around. The town is very easy to navigate. We walked the length of Duval Street, every second store is a T-shirt shop. Stopped at Margaritaville for Margs and a T-Shirt, cheeseburgers looked good but we just had a drink. More shopping -- on to the Key Lime Pie store -- yum!! Key West Aloe - we were thankful later in the cruise. Then off to Mel Fisher Museum - worth the $6. Bought pop and juice in Key West. Wednesday - At Sea - little cloudy so we relaxed most of the day. Played golf, played Bingo, drank, slept, drank, ate, danced, slept. Thursday - Cozumel - didn't book any excursion-went shopping in the morning, boy are they aggressive -- worse than Jamaica. Got tired of that after about 5 minutes and went to Carlos and Charlies for margaritas. After shopping we took a cab to Chankanabb (sp) this would have been a good trip if the weather was better, but it was choppy and cloudy. We watched the dolphins for about ½ hour, and lay on the beach until it started to spit then headed back to the ship. Friday - Grand Cayman - went snorkeling with the Stingrays - what a trip - we will never forget this - you have to do it at least once. The water was wonderful and the stingrays are so graceful not slimmy at all. One women freaked that "something touched her" well what did she expect. Went back into Georgetown in the afternoon for a little shopping, bought our Rum Cakes then the rain came and boy did it come down - I was offered money for my hat about three times. Saturday - Jamaica Mon! -- we had planned to spend the day at Sandals, but then we found out they want $40 each way for the Cab, never mind the entrance fee. Sandals Dunns River is only about a 7 minute drive if that and I'll be damned if I'm paying $80 US for a cab. So, instead we booked the ships excursion to Dunn's River Falls and were glad we did, we had a great group and tons of fun. Never stopped laughing. Yes, you get very wet! You have to go out through the "market" they are aggressive but in a very kind way if that makes sense, they really are charming if you get the right guy. We bought a $10 T-shirt and he made us a carving with our names in it. Next stop shopping malls -- we stocked up on our Blue Mountain Coffee here and I bought some Tanzanite - good prices. Sunday - It's raining -- must be a Sea Day - see Wednesday - but it's really raining this time. Monday - Aruba - my favourite. What a wonderful island -- the people were so friendly -- the sun was shining, by husband won $450 us on a nickel machine. We did the 5 hour, snorkel and sail with the barbecue lunch and beach break -- wonderful time, great catamaran -- the snorkeling wasn't great but a wonderful way to see Aruba the beaches looked wonderful. We will be returning to Aruba. Tuesday - Curacao - another great port -- we did the Liquor, plantation house and seaquarium tour -- was pretty good. A nice short excursion to get a little history of the island -- walked around downtown for the rest of the day -- nice little area, stopped at "time out" for some beers and food. They had good prices for jewelry. We pulled out of the port just at sunset - Aww! Wednesday - Day at Sea - have to get some sun! Sat on our deck most of the day, had a few cocktails, played a little golf. Thursday - last day - Day at Sea - how can I get sun with all these damn clouds? Lost money in the casino, played Bingo and didn't win. Have no talents so I couldn't participate in the Talent Contest. Packed - how depressing, played golf before the rain came again -- which it did! Friday - Disembarked - no problems -- just line ups. Then very long flight back to Vancouver. We had a six hour holdover in Dallas - just when they announced the Florida Supreme Court had voted for the recount -- not a happy place. This was a great vacation and having a balcony was wonderful, I don't think I could do an 11-day without one. Just the quiet times we spent together watching the water is priceless. Yes, there are more things that I could complain about, but I'm not going to because they are petty and didn't ruin the overall experience. Good Things: Our dinner table -- wonderful people, wonderful waiters, and the food was pretty good. Very attentive waiters. And my poor husband he was the only Canadian at the table and 7 brits. An Aft Cabin - the best! We had great neighbours too. The Ports - Cozumel and Jamaica are the only ones I wouldn't hurry back to. Western Quest - This is the funniest thing I have ever seen. We had half-naked people behind us because a team needed their pants. I've never seen women take their bras off so quick. Do not miss this. Not many kids The champagne terrace every night before dinner! Bad Things: Our Cabin Steward - she was new and maybe we expected too much, but no towel animals, took her a couple of days to empty the outside ashtray. We noticed a few cabin stewards cleaning the deck window -- ours was filthy. One night she completely forgot about us, no turndown service, no new towels, no ice -- she didn't come in the room. The other funny thing she did was we had a few excursions with water -- she never provided us with beach towels -- we had to get our own from the pool. Then the day we do Curacao with no water, we get beach towels. We did cut her tip by about 20 percent, and gave the extra to our waiters. The champagne terrace every night before dinner -- people this is a champagne bar, if you want a beer and want to sit down, go next door to the schooner bar. Our poor waitress was running back and forth getting your highballs when she should have been serving champagne. General Observations: Tons of Seniors Some people just don't understand the word "Formal" 12/13/00 Read Less
We just returned from Splendour of the Seas sailing out of Galveston TX over the Thanksgiving holidays. The ship was beautiful and in good shape. We boarded about 11 AM and they were replacing carpet on the main pool deck. There were ... Read More
We just returned from Splendour of the Seas sailing out of Galveston TX over the Thanksgiving holidays. The ship was beautiful and in good shape. We boarded about 11 AM and they were replacing carpet on the main pool deck. There were no lines and embarkation was fast and easy. RCCL is refurbishing a new shore facility next to the original one now used by Carnival. Parking is at outside lots four or five blocks away. Drop off your passengers and luggage at the terminal, go park and catch the shuttle bus back. The police did a good job of keeping traffic moving. Please note that there is a discount parking lot not run by the port facility at Market & 33rd street that also runs shuttles. They will let you park before 11AM and they are a little less ($65 for the 10 days), the port facility parking made you wait until 11AM. The meals in the dining room were good on most nights but the menu selections could use improvement on some nights. It seems that RCCL has just taken the seven-day menu and stretched it to 10. Fortunately, there were the standard RCCL fallbacks for the nights with the not-so-exciting menu (NY strip steak, rosemary chicken, and Caesar salads). There were two formal nights (the two Saturdays); you got Filets on the first and lobster on the second. There were only two midnight buffets in the main dining room and both were on the formal nights. The grand buffet was on the second formal night, at 12:30, just after the lobster. The other was a chocolate buffet the second night. It would be nice if RCCL would put the buffets on nights other than the nights when the best food is served in main dining room just hours before. There was a Tex-Mex buffet at the pool deck one night but it was before an early tender day so we didn't go. Our service in the main dining room was outstanding. The Wind Jammer Buffet was always crowded and the food and service were not as good as the main dining room. The hours of operation seemed to be less than previous RCCL cruises (Breakfast 7-9:30 most days and lunch 11:30 till 2PM), which explains the crowd. There was only one omelet station and two serving lines. Often tables were not cleared promptly, which made the crowd seem worse. The orange juice for breakfast (Wind Jammer only) was always watery. We decided to go to the main dining room and avoid the overcrowded Wind Jammer for most meals. The Head waiters at the main dining room seemed surprised how busy it was but they seated people quickly and service was good. Before we gave up on the buffet, they served various types of fajitas (pork & turkey) but they did not have flour tortillas, only hard corn meal taco shells. Someone told us later in the cruise that they did finally get some flour tortillas on the buffet for the fajitas. Coming out of Texas, you figure that they should get this right. The indoor pool was very nice (even though it was salt water) and the two inside hot tubs were in almost constant use. RCCL has finally changed their policy of closing pools at sunset and they did keep one of the two pools open 24 hours per day. The outside pool was too cold to use much of the cruise, since it is filled with sea water and there was often a lot of wind on the main pool deck. They did have a Jamaican band, Hot Spices (keyboard, drummer, steel drum and rhythm guitar) that played three 45-minutes sets each day on the main pool deck. Every song that they played sounded exactly the same and soon most PAX were avoiding the main pool deck when the band was playing. Chair hogs were not a problem on this cruise. 10 days of a not so good band that only knows one tune was way too much. There was a nice trio (piano, bass guitar & drummer) that played in the Centrum before and after dinner and Sheri could play and sing about anything. She had an excellent voice. What a contrast to the pool band. The ship's orchestra was also very good, but we didn't see enough of them. There was only one production show for the entire 10 day cruise. The cruise director said that they were new to the ship and had just boarded when we did. The one show they did do, on the last formal night, was very good and I definitely would like to have seen more of them. They also did two song selections from "HAIR" for the farewell show on the last night. The 42nd street Theater was very nice with great sight lines. There was no balcony or columns to block the view. Every seat had a good view and every seat was very comfortable. Saving of seats was not a problem and cocktail service was good. The other band which played in the Top Hat lounge after dinner and the 42nd Street theater shows was midnight sun. They played soft rock & roll and would have been good if they had someone that could sing. Most of the karaoke singers (karaoke was in the top hat lounge when Midnight Sun was off) were better than the Midnight Sun lead singer. Hard to believe but there was no C & W band or even a band that could play C&W songs for a cruise coming out of Texas. RCCL should fire both Hot Spices and Midnight Sun and replace them with some local bands that can play a wide selection of music. The other night spot was the Crown Viking Lounge. It was great if you like Salsa, hip-hop or modern day Latin music (no Rock & Roll or C&W here). It should be renamed the Crown Crew lounge because most of the people were ship staff, gift shop or Spa personnel. It was never crowded because there just aren't that many PAX that like that kind of music sailing out of Galveston. The Cruise staff was also new and seemed very un-organized. Richard Cooper was the cruise director and his wife was the social host. They were nice but again it seemed like RCCL took a 7-day cruise program and stretched it out to 10 days. Two nights in a row we were scheduled to have a one-man classical music residual but on the second night, 10 minutes before Showtime, they announced that the piano guy would not be on and the magic show scheduled for the next night would be on instead. We had already blown off the piano guy (after the violin player the night before) and were in the hot tubs when the change was announced and so we missed the magic act. The next night, I did catch the piano guy play for his 40 minute show and it was really stale. My wife made the right decision by skipping him. I do not like the trend that RCCL seems to be going to one man 40 minute shows. Hopefully this trend will be reversed. There were other events that were scheduled in the Daily Compass that were cancelled or ran late because the cruise staff just didn't show up on time. Funny how many activities were cancelled but they never missed having the 2 hour art auctions in the Centrum. I am amazed what people would endure that for free champagne and a chance to buy overpriced art. Even in the library up on deck 7 with the doors closed, you could hear the art auction 4 fours below. The Crown & Anchor Welcome Back party was also poorly planned. It was on the last formal night, from 7:45 to 8:30 for both seatings. The problem is if you had late seating, you were halfway through (show time was 7:15 to 8:15 for late seating) the only production show for the entire cruise and when the show was over, the early seating gang had all of the seats in the Top Cat lounge. It was standing room only; (there were 185 registered for the Cruise Critic party on this cruise so they knew they had a lot of returning PAX) and with the cruise being so light on entertainment, they should have planned a party for each seating. More poor planning by the cruise director and staff. We expected to tender in Grand Cayman and this actually went pretty well since we were there by 7AM and they had open tendering at 8:40 after all of the ships excursions had left. They announced that tender tickets would be available beginning at 9 AM. The tender ride was short and seas were calm. We expected to dock at Cozumel but did not. There were 10 ships in Cozumel and only 6 could dock. The Splendour was one of the ones that did not dock. In fact, it was so windy; the Splendour could not anchor and had to drift all day. This is really poor planning since RCCL had a berth for the Monarch which they could have used before the Monarch's scheduled arrival (noon till 8PM) and then tendered us back from the same dock. The tendering procedure was handled very poorly by the cruise staff. The Daily Compass, which is normally printed and distributed by the cabin attendants during dinner the night before was not even printed. We asked at the purser's desk, they indicated that it wasn't printed yet and would be distributed to the cabins during the night. The next morning, still no Compass and most people did not know that we were tendering. Finally, the Daily Compass was printed and distributed during breakfast and it said to get tender tickets from the Champagne bar at 8:45. There was a mob in the Centrum beginning shortly after 8AM. (More poor planning.) The social hostess showed up at 8:45 and since she could not get to Champagne Bar because of the mob, she began handing out tender tickets from the Centrum steps where the mob converged from all sides. The people who had been patiently standing in line at the Champagne Bar lost out and got on later tenders. There were also a lot of people in the line for tender tickets that had RCCL excursions and they needed to be getting on the tenders reserved for them instead of delaying both the boarding process ands the passing out tender ticket process. Since the tendering seemed to be a last minute surprise for RCCI, and instructions in the Daily Compass were distributed very late, it is was clearly a mess that should have been handled better. Proper planning would be to begin passing out tender tickets at 6:00 at the shore excursion desk when there would have been no line. A sign could have told PAX on listed excursions that they didn't need tender tickets and where they should go and when. Since it was windy and rough, the process was very slow. The first boat loaded was the tour excursion boat going directly to the mainland for ships tours. This took nearly an hour. (Remember some PAX that were supposed to be getting on it were in line getting tender tickets) Next the first tender was loaded with ships tours going to Cozumel and then tender tickets 1 & 2. The Captain was very nice and kept coming on the PA and apologizing. Bottom line is RCCL needs to rearrange the itinerary so that the Splendour docks in Cozumel on a less busy day and if tendering is necessary, a better system of tender tickets and information needs to be planned. Our family did the resort Scuba course in Cozumel with Eagle Ray divers. They had no problems with our group being late and provided very good and patient instruction. Highly recommended. Grand Cayman was great and we did the sailboat tour to Sting Ray City with Captain Bryan. Nice boat and a good price. Not crowded like the ships tours. Roatan is pretty much a beach and diving stop. The Island is green and tropical and has good beaches and great diving. We had Foster's resort (just down the beach from where the ship's tours go) pick us up and we spent a relaxing Thanksgiving day on a nice beach, did some snorkeling and sea kayaking and returned to the ship for turkey dinner that night. Key West was nice and the weather was wonderful but the stay is too short for anything other than shopping. Although scheduled to dock at 7AM (8AM local time- this was the only port where ship's time was different from local time) the ship was not cleared by US INS until after 9AM and then you had to show passports on the gangplank to exit. This left only about 4 hours of shore time. One of our table mates took the PT boat ride ($40 for 3 hours) and said it was great. We just shopped and walked around. Too little time to parasail, so our boys will have to wait till the next cruise. On Jamaica we took the ship's tour to Dunn's river falls and lunch at the Margaritaville in Ocho Rios. They transported us in 25 person A/C buses; diving time about 2 hours each way. Percy was our driver and he was very nice and also very safe (see other messages about other buses). Lunch was chicken, rice and fish buffet in the crowded upstairs room set aside for ships tours (no Cheeseburger in paradise) and took most of the time allowed for the Island Village stop. Only about 5 minutes shopping at Island Village but the bus did stop halfway back for a shopping/rest room break and also shopping at a selected shopping center in Mo-Bay. We were back at the dock by 3:30PM but two of the ship's tour buses where delayed by traffic and the Captain delayed the ships departure until 5:30. If you are on a tight schedule or traveling a long distance, it is best to pay the extra $ for a ship's tour because they will wait. At all other stops, we arranged our own tours, had smaller groups and saved $. The children's programs seem to be well run and our teens had fun. There were over 200 kids on this holiday sailing and they were not a problem. We had a lot of fun and didn't let the minor problems with the cruise staff and second rate bands bother us. Hopefully they will get organized, get better bands and make this cruise even more fun. Hey for the first 10 day sailing out of Galveston, it was pretty good and I recommend it to everyone. Gary.Bowden@bakeratlas.com April, 2003 Read Less
We flew into Houston Hobby on the day before the cruise. We had reservations with Galveston Limo to take us to Galveston. They were very dependable and efficient. We had reservations at the Harbor House on Pier 21. I made the reservation ... Read More
We flew into Houston Hobby on the day before the cruise. We had reservations with Galveston Limo to take us to Galveston. They were very dependable and efficient. We had reservations at the Harbor House on Pier 21. I made the reservation on-line at www.galveston.com. It was cheaper than calling for a reservation. The Harbor House is an old hotel, but we loved our room. It was a corner room with two giant windows and you could see the cruise ships parked at the pier. I must warn you though, there was no bellman. The hotel did provide a limo to take us and all our luggage to the ship the next day. Embarkation We arrived at the pier about 11:45 a.m. We checked our luggage and jumped into the repeat cruiser line and were processed and in our room by 12:30 p.m. Everyone from RCI was friendly and helpful. Cabin 7060 This was our first balcony room and we were very excited about that. The cabin was a nice size but was badly in need of refurbishing. The carpet and draperies were in bad shape and needed replacing. The door on the refrigerator cabinet flopped off each time the door was opened. We had to call maintenance about the water pressure in our shower three times. They did respond but each time it would be back to a trickle the next day. Several passengers on the ship mentioned this same problem, so perhaps it was ship wide. Despite these problems, we loved having a balcony and it was well worth the money. It is a pleasure to order coffee from room service in the morning and drink it out on the balcony. We also loved the location of the room. It was very close to the action. The Ship This is one of the most beautiful ships we have been on. This was our second cruise aboard the Splendour. We last sailed with her on 1/99. Four years is a long time in the life of a cruise ship, but the public rooms still looked very good. It has a lovely two-story dining room with floor to ceiling windows. The ship has an excellent layout and everything is easy to find. Some other ships we have been on are like a maze. Another thing that I really like about this ship is the solarium. It has a pool and hot tubs and is completely enclosed with windows. You have a wonderful view of everything without the wind. They have many comfortable chairs with plenty of towels. Some cruise lines ration the towels. There is also a snack bar there where they cook delicious hot dogs and hamburgers with French fries. They also have pizza there, but it was only so-so. I am not a sun worshiper, but my husband enjoyed sitting by the pool and listening to the calypso band. They have a nice library on board and a great card room. They show movies daily in the 42nd Street theater as well as on the TV in your room. I didn't use the beauty salon or spa services, so I cannot comment on those. I did use the gym which was small but well equipped. I also enjoyed jogging on deck in the mornings. The shops are only so-so in comparison to other ships we have been on. The King and I Dining Room My husband and I always request the second seating because we think it is too much of a rush to try to be dressed for dinner by 6:00 p.m., especially on port days. The second seating is very late on RCI (8:30 p.m.). The dining room wasn't very full. It is my understanding that the main seating was packed. We like to sit at big tables so that the conversation doesn't lag. When we reached our table of ten, we found we were the only ones assigned there. The head waiter Hans (very witty) assigned us to another table. The next night we joined three other couples at Table 31. Our new table mates were all from Texas and were delightful. We were on the top floor of the dining room. For some reason you can feel the ship vibrate. We sat on the bottom floor at breakfast and we couldn't feel it there. It didn't bother us, but it will make you a bit sleepy as the night wears on. The Food Quality Breakfast We ate breakfast every morning in the dining room. We think it is the best way to meet other passengers and compare notes about travel. The food was good in the morning with the exception of the orange juice. For some reason they couldn't seem to figure our how much water to mix with the concentrate. One morning it would be like orange water and the next day it would be as thick as paint. Lunch We ate lunch in the dining room, the Windjammer and the solarium. I liked the cookies and lemonade in the Windjammer. My husband liked the hamburgers in the solarium, and the pasta in the Windjammer. The view is wonderful in the Windjammer. Afternoon Tea They do have an afternoon tea in the Windjammer, but it is nothing like they have on Princess. Princess has gloved waiters serving tea out of silver pots and delicate sandwiches and lovely scones. They also have live music during the tea. I missed that aspect very much. It is another way to meet and talk with your fellow passengers. RCI just kept the buffet open another two hours. Dinner My husband and I are not "foodies" and we are usually always pleased with the food on cruise ships. This was our 11th cruise, and the third on RCI. The appetizers were very unexciting. The soups (usually one of the best items on cruise ships) were either too salty, tasted canned, or were not served hot enough. I usually always order the fish selection on cruise ships. They generally have an outstanding selection of nice fish, and they usually serve delicate sauces to accompany them. Not on the Splendour. The sauces were mostly heavy and strange. I tried them without sauce too and still they weren't good. The snapper was especially bad and the grouper wasn't much better. It wasn't just our opinion either. One couple at our table was on their 25th cruise, and they said they had never had such bad meals. One evening my husband and I ordered the prime rib. We could not cut it. Our dining room steward was Ebru from Turkey. She was ultra efficient and did her very best to please all of us. We felt sorry for her, because passengers tend to gripe a great deal even when the food is good! I must say that although the dinners weren't good, the desserts were all very good. The ice cream is very nice in the dining room too. Entertainment The entertainment was pretty disorganized. They would put the night's featured entertainment in the cruise news and when you got there, the cruise director would announce that instead of the act in the cruise news, it would be something completely different. There was a problem with one act not being able to get on as planned, but it happened more than once. On the plus side, we saw two famous entertainers on this cruise. Remember Charro (cootchie-cootchie) and John Davidson (Hollywood Squares)? You are probably thinking "has beens", because we thought that too, but they turned out to be great. They also had a comedian, and illusionist, a pianist and the production shows of which cruise passengers are so fond. We have been on Princess the last couple of cruises and although we like that line very much, they have cut corners on music available in the lounges. RCI still had some nice music available. I am 44 and my husband is 48. We like to watch the ball room dancers and listen to the beautiful old standards. They have a disco in the Viking Crown Lounge where a DJ plays music for the younger set. They also have karaoke there. The casino is small and the machines are very close together. It was also very smoky. You needed a gas mask if you wanted to stay in there very long. Drink Card We bought a drink card for $44.85 including gratuities. This entitles you to 12 cocktails or house wines. You can get house brands or some call brands, but no good scotch or bourbon. They add the 15% gratuity on every drink, like on most ships. We don't mind the 15% but it certainly takes away the incentive for the wait staff to be friendly and helpful. If you have ever been on a cruise line that doesn't apply the auto tip (HAL), you can see a great deal of difference in service level. The Galveston Deal After boarding the ship and finding our cabin, we went looking for a bar for our first cruise cocktail. Imagine our surprise when they told us there were only two bars serving drinks until we left Galveston. Also, the only drinks they were serving were beer, wine and spirits from Texas. My husband got a stricken look when they told him no Bud Light until we reached international waters. Every bartender told a different story about why this was the policy. You couldn't buy a drink card or even get the cocktail of the day. I ordered a glass of chardonnay at the pool bar and the bartender told me it was his last glass of Texas wine. We spoke to another passenger on board who claimed he was on the Texas Liquor Commission. He said that Texas was charging 14% tax on every drink sold within 12 miles of Texas. The ship didn't like paying this tax, and so they didn't encourage drinking until we had reached international waters. We don't know if this is true, but it was very strange. Usually, they are pushing the drinks at you when you first get on. The Ports of Call Ocho Rios The first port was supposed to be at Montego Bay, Jamaica. When we registered at embarkation they were circulating a letter that stated the port was changed to Ocho Rios because of some problem with the pier at Mo Bay. This was fine with us as we think the bay at Ocho Rios is one of the most beautiful in all of the Caribbean. We have been to Jamaica many times and have seen most of the sights. We chose to stay on board during this port visit. Grand Cayman The weather was windy the day we were supposed to go to Grand Cayman. They closed the port so we were unable to stop there. We have been there before but we were disappointed nonetheless. We love to go to Stingray City. You should be aware that they close that port quite often. We talked to one couple who have been on four cruises with Grand Cayman on the itinerary and have yet to stop there. A side note: RCI keeps your port charges. Cozumel After not getting off at Jamaica or Grand Cayman, we were ready for some solid ground in Mexico. Cozumel used to be a sleepy little port with beautiful vistas. The day we stopped, there were eight other ships docked. It was like St. Thomas. It was so crowded you could barely walk down the street. We decided to do a bit of shopping and then we stopped at a lovely open air restaurant for some chips and salsa and Coronas. Roatan This was the only port we had not visited before. I read many favorable reviews about Foster's at West Bay. We met another couple at breakfast who was interested in going to the West Bay, so we arranged a time to meet and grab a taxi. The taxi driver agreed on $40 roundtrip for all four of us. He then tried to increase the price once we were in the car, but when we all started to get out; he went back to his original agreement. You should be aware of how primitive this island is. We drove through the town and saw children playing in open sewers. There were skinny little dogs everywhere. When we arrived at Foster's, we were expecting a resort. The pictures on their website are deceptive. The road to Foster's was washed out and it was very scary. We had to go through some deep standing water too. I felt sympathy for the taxi driver. Thankfully we had not made reservations at Foster's, so our taxi driver, Jonathon, walked us down the beach to a better place and he told us he would bring the car around so that we wouldn't have to go through the road to Foster's again. The place we went was called Henry Morgan's and they encouraged us to use their beach chairs. We tried to pay them, but they wouldn't take any money. We were going to snorkel, but it began to rain, so we sat under a thatched cabana and drank some local beer. (The brown bottle was better than the green bottle.) We found the people on the island to be very polite and helpful. There are little kids who stand outside of the cruise port and beg you, but for the most part it was a positive experience. They really need the tourist dollars there. Key West There was some kind of a Customs problem in Key West and we weren't able to get off the ship until 10:30 a.m. despite docking at 7:00 a.m. Since we had to be back on the ship at 1:30 p.m., there wasn't time for exploration. We have been there before so we opted to do a bit of shopping and then we stopped in at the Hog's Breath for some giant peel and eat shrimp. There were many passengers who were angry about the delay. The captain blamed it completely on the Customs Service, but there were some non-U.S. citizens that we spoke with who claimed the ship was slow with everything. We don't know who was at fault, but I do know that some other cruise ships were delayed too. Key West is a great place. My husband and I think we might like to spend a week there sometime. Disembarkation Since we had already cleared customs at Key West, the disembarkation process was very quick. We were off the ship by 9:30 a.m. Final Thoughts Although we enjoyed ourselves very much, we will probably not book another RCI cruise. There are too many other cruise lines that do the same thing only better. That said, we must admit that this was a very cheap cruise. Our balcony room cost us less than an inside cabin when we first began cruising. We understand that they must cut corners, but they are going to have to reach a better balance. Many people go on cruises for the food, and the dinners were very disappointing. Also, compared to Ft. Lauderdale or Miami, it is more difficult for us to get to Galveston. I don't know if we would book another cruise leaving from Galveston, although we did enjoy our time there. roxanne5887@yahoo.com April 2003 Read Less
Splendour of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.1
Dining 3.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.5
Public Rooms 4.0 4.3
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.8
Family 4.0 3.8
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 1.0 3.4
Service 4.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.2

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